When the headstrong Ainslie accidentally hails an abandoned orbiting spaceship to beam her (and her friend George) onboard, her adventure is only just beginning. Because, with their Thrillbent series "Everstar," Becky Tinker and Joie Brown have a whole heap of grand surprises awaiting the duo -- including robots, space pirates, and a heck of a lot more.
With the charismatic Ainslie as the lead, the August-launching series has proven to be a fun piece of sci-fi adventuring, one of Thrillbent's offerings created with the approach of releasing comics anybody, of any age, can read, with a lot of heart and humor at its center. In order to catch up on everything that's been going on in outer space, CBR spoke to both Tinker and Brown about how the series came together.
CBR News: What is "Everstar" about?
Becky Tinker: "Everstar" is what happens when a young girl gets the opportunity to explore the stars in her own spaceship and starts to unlock her true potential as a spacefaring captain in the process! It's about taking that amazing perspective that kids have on the world and seeing what happens when that's put into the realm of science-fiction, allowing kids to be kids even when they're faced with wild, and often dangerous, circumstances like space pirates and malfunctioning robots.
What originally kicked off the idea for the story, for you? How did it find a way across to Thrillbent, and life as a comic?
Tinker: I love writing for kids, and I'm a huge science-fiction fan, so "Everstar" is what happened when those two worlds came together. When it comes down to it, it's all about wish fulfillment. So many kids wonder what it would be like to explore outer space, so I thought it would be fun to tell the story of what would happen if there was a kid who got that chance -- and that kid happened to be an absolute magnet for trouble.
It was originally written as a television pilot script, and it got to the desk of John Rogers, who thought it would make a great comic for Thrillbent as they were looking to expand their audience. I'm a massive comics fan, so naturally the opportunity is a dream come true. I went in and pitched it as a comic series to John Rogers and Mark Waid, and the rest is history.
Are you sci-fi fans, yourselves? Did you see this as a chance to play around in the genre, poke a little fun at it?
Tinker: Absolutely! In writing it, I often thought about what would have happened if the Enterprise were run by elementary school students with no adult supervision. With "Everstar," we have the chance to take tropes or storylines that we see often in science-fiction and come at them from an entirely new angle. Instead of a rugged antihero we're looking at the story through the eyes of kids who have no real understanding of consequences and always hold on to their sense of curiosity and wonderment, so it's incredibly fun to take a run at sci-fi with that viewpoint in mind.
Joie Brown: I've been a sci-fi fan all my life with television, movies and books. However, only within the past few years have I started reading sci-fi comic titles. This was definitely a fun and exploratory project for me, especially since I've not ever read (nor seen) a kid-specific sci-fi title.
Ainslie, your lead, is one of those characters who can't help but cause trouble. Where everybody else sees a problem, she sees an adventure. What do you think defines her, as a character?
Brown: As I've been drawing her, I've decided that her spirit is what makes her stand out as a character. She's bright, expressive, driven, stubborn, brave and unafraid. She's going to wring adventure out of this world (and others), no matter what!
Tinker: Ainslie is absolutely fearless, especially for her age, and she has this wonderful ability to inspire confidence in everyone around her. However, she never thinks about the consequences of her actions and craves adventures, which is a dangerous combination. As a result she tends to jump headfirst into wild situations. At her core she's a natural born leader, and a huge part of the series will be her journey as she comes to understand what it means to be a true leader and a true captain, even when that means making difficult decisions and sacrifices.
This is very much a book with a core cast of characters, and you slowly start building up a crew for The Everstar over the first few chapters. How did you decide on the size of the cast, what kind of voices you wanted in there, and how different everybody would look from one another?
Tinker: I wanted to keep the cast relatively small, to be able to give each character a lot of time on page. Each character has a very different voice and personality, partially because it's fun to see the conflict that naturally comes out of that. Ainslie is obviously the wild child, George is much more pragmatic and helps to reign her in, Rusty is the stickler for rules and regulations, and PREM is a rather whimsical and mysterious presence on the ship.
It was incredibly fun bringing them all together and seeing how they would all interact, especially when a character like Rusty has to contend with Ainslie's crazy antics.
Brown: Art-wise, it was interesting, because I designed each of the characters visually one at a time as they appeared in the story. I designed Ainslie first, and that gave me a bit of time to play with her character before having to design George. Each character's design shifts subtly as the story builds and we get to know the characters better. In addition, the characters interacting with each other helps inform the way that I draw them over time.
How big a scope do you have for the series? Do you want the story to stay on the ship and the characters foremost, or could you see yourselves having a far wider intergalactic scope, down the line?
Brown: I want to see a bit of both at play. I love having lots of character interaction and development; it really gives stories a lot of heart. However, if the story continues for a long time, I would really love to see our main characters make their mark in a universe-wide fashion. I can't wait to see how things turn out!
Tinker: The characters, specifically Ainslie, will always be the forefront of the series, and the Everstar is the ship that they'll call their home during their adventures. That being said, it'd be wonderful to tell their story on a wider scope as they adventure across the universe. Without giving anything away, we'll start to see the scope widen already near the end of this first volume.
You both met this year at WonderCon, right? That's a remarkably quick turnaround from first meeting to getting a comic published at Thrillbent! Did you find you were both pretty much on the same page about the story you wanted to tell?
Brown: When I met Becky, she already had the comic greenlit at Thrillbent -- she had been hunting for an artist that really matched what she saw the comic series looking like. When she contacted me after the show to tell me about the project and let me read the scripts, I was absolutely thrilled. This was exactly the sort of story that I wanted to tell! It had a lead character that was female (and well-developed)! It was about adventure! In space! We were incredibly on the same page when it came to how to present the story visually -- from what the characters looked like right down to what alien planets might look like. Her storytelling and my art are absolutely matched well.
Tinker: We were definitely on the same page. We both love kids comics and were drawn to the same types of stories, so when I approached her about "Everstar," fortunately for me she was excited about the direction I wanted to go in. A huge reason why I reached out to Joie about doing the art for Everstar was because her style fit so perfectly with what I had in mind for the series, so right away the work that she did for it looked amazing.
How has the collaborative process worked out between you both? As you've gone further into the comic, have you found yourselves getting ever more in-sync as storytellers?
Brown: I felt that we were extremely in sync right from the get-go. It has remained just as easy to work with Becky now as on Day One.
Tinker: We have very similar tastes when it comes to storytelling, so it's been so much fun seeing how things that I've written come to life through her artwork. Since "Everstar" takes place in a very whimsical world where things don't always obey the laws of physics and there are robots and pirate spaceships, it gives us the chance to do a lot of fun designs where we can go back and forth on what these things should look like.
It's always exciting to see what Joie comes up with and how she brings things to life. That's especially true for things like physical humor, where she'll have a really fun take on how to do those sequences visually.
Have you found over time that you've wanted to play around with the unique opportunities provided by the Thrillbent format? I noticed that you've started playing around with speech bubbles in more recent chapters.
Tinker: The Thrillbent format allows us to do really unique things that we wouldn't be able to do anywhere else, which makes for some fun experimentation. Other titles on Thrillbent use the format in very different ways -- we have horror series like "The Eighth Seal" that use it for scares, while "Insufferable" has great action sequences, and so on. "Everstar" has such a different tone that I thought it would be fun to play around with ways to use the digital format for things like comedic effect, or to show the sheer sense of wonder that Ainslie is experiencing on this spaceship so the reader is seeing things through the eyes of an eleven-year-old.
Brown: I did notice that the scripts seemed to start taking more and more advantage of Thrillbent's style as we went. It's a great way to really drag out drama and time humor even more carefully than you can in regular comics.
Is it difficult to make comics in that style?
Tinker: It was definitely challenging to write at first, mainly because it's a whole new way of telling a story. You have to think about each and every change when you're writing the script, and how that will look visually, and how to use that format in a way that will be creative and fun but not confuse readers at the same time. I've been reading print comics for ages, but needless to say this was entirely new territory for me. As the writing process went on, it became more and more fun to think about different ways to use the formatting, from character's reactions to things to more subtle changes here and there that hopefully add a lot to the way the story is told.
Brown: For me, it was almost second nature, as my artistic schooling focused mainly on animation-based designs and storyboards. The Thrillbent style lends itself to both of these things with swipe overlays. When people ask me about Thrillbent, I describe it as a comic book/storyboard hybrid.
It's a really funny comic, and you both seem to have a similar sense of what works as a joke. What kind of comedic influences do you try and put into "Everstar?" Do you have a particular rhythm for Ainslie's dialogue/body language in mind, by now?
Brown: I think a lot of my visual comedic influences include styles that utilize cut-away shock humor, extreme pose/expression changes, and deadpan looks. These particular approaches were very easy to infuse into Becky's writing!
Tinker: I love it when kids entertainment includes a lot of humor, and Ainslie is such a natural magnet for ridiculous situations that the comedy definitely came easily. Joie does such a fantastic job with creating very funny visuals just by making small changes and creating great visual gags, and the Thrillbent format also allowed us to play with comedy by breaking up the speech bubbles or doing extended reveals. I've been very inspired by Jim Henson and those like him who always included a lot of comedy to keep things fun and entertaining.
Thrillbent co-creator Mark Waid has noted that he wanted to put a spotlight on comics that anybody could read, which led to "Aw Yeah Comics" coming to Thrillbent, and now "Everstar." Did you have a similar goal?
Tinker: One of our primary goals with "Everstar," was to make it accessible to all ages, adults and kids alike. That was very important to me as the stories that I love are ones that can reach people of all ages, and I certainly hope "Everstar" is the kind of comic that can do that.
Brown: Frankly, I want all of my art to be accessible to anyone. I'm not going for kid-specific, but I don't want to exclude kids. I also don't want to make entertainment for children that excludes adults. I want to create entertainment that works on multiple levels so that anyone of any age can take something amusing or thoughtful away from it.
How has the response been so far?
Tinker: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which has been really great to see. We've gotten feedback from people whose kids are reading and enjoying it, as well as adults just reading it for themselves. We've also seen increases in our numbers each week, so our fingers are crossed that our audience continues to grow.
Brown: So far, people seem to like it and be amused by it! A lot of people I've talked to that have read it have mentioned that they find Ainslie to be particularly engaging, and found the story to be a fun (and funny) way to mix up the sci-fi genre.
What else do you have coming up at present? Where can people find you -- and your work -- online?
Brown: I've finished writing and am currently drawing issue #2 of my personal comic, "Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi."
I also have a few other projects in the work, both comics-wise and non. If you'd like to see more of my work, you can check it out on my website. I love talking to people, so feel free to come find me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on!
Tinker: At the moment, "Everstar" is my main focus in the comics world but will hopefully have more to offer in the future! You can find me on Twitter at @becksandtherest, and be sure to check out Joie's artwork online!