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Theme Park Magic Gets a Little Too Real in Welcome to Wanderland

Speaking of world-building, can you detail the process for me of essentially designing your very own theme park from the ground up? How was that collaborative process?

Ball: Oh golly, we’re still figuring that out, to be honest. I actually started how I would start organizing an actual park: with a bubble diagram, which is literally a bunch of circles that just give a very general placement of lands in the park and how they relate to each other, and hand it off to Maddi with a bunch of reference imagery of what I’m envisioning that space to look like. It’s important that the lands in the park be fleshed out to an extent, because they will definitely impact things like background characters and styles of dress, etc., but I have to reign myself in a lot. A typical Blue Sky design effort for a theme park (the very first phase of development) takes longer than the entire four issue run of this comic book will, and there’s an entire team of artists working on it, whereas for this effort Maddi is carrying the entire artistic load.

Gonzalez: Our design process so far pretty much works like this: Jackie will give me a general written description of what she’s looking for in a design, along with a beautifully compiled mood board of her favorite visual reference for the subject. I take all of that into consideration, do a little bit of visual research on my own, then try to blend that up in my brain and sketch pages and pages of concepts for what I think would a) look and feel the best for the story’s purpose and b) be the most fun for me to draw 10 billion times. We volley that back and forth and make tweaks here and there until we get something we’re both satisfied with. I feel like I get to draw a lot of stuff I really like to draw with this book, so I’m having a great time. It is a very speedy process -- I’m essentially designing on-the-go while I’m drawing the book -- but it’s been awesome.

Fandom is always complicated, but speaking from experience I've found that theme park fandom can be even more so, just with all the logical loops you have to jump when it comes to loving something that is literally designed to be a giant profit engine for some mega corporation -- was maintaining a level of earnestness in Bel's passion a challenge? How did you deal with it on the creative end?

Ball: Yeah, that has been a balancing act because that’s one of the many things Bel is still learning about and wrestling with. Coming to terms with the idea that something can be deeply flawed and problematic and it’s OK to still love it, is a weird and difficult lesson to learn, and I think it’s one that teenagers are constantly learning across a wide spectrum of things they care about.

Gonzalez: Bel is very defensive about the “core” of the park. She goes on about how the park was in the good old days, when it actually meant something, and so on -- part of that is, I think, because she does enjoy the creativity and fun of the parks and sometimes forgets that it is essentially a money machine. If anything, she gets grumpy when the park tries to make any profitable changes because it messes with what she views as the “true integrity” of the thing. I think deep down she does twist herself into knots trying to justify that love for herself, but at the end of the day it still brings her a lot of that deep joy that only a megafan can have. Like Jackie said, it’s a weird learning process!

I'm really interested in the idea of this theme park portal being both a blessing and a curse -- you describe Bel's powers on the other side of the portal being something that means a "lifetime of servitude," can you elaborate on that? What sort of challenges are on the horizon for her?

Ball: When she first gets through the portal, Bel finds that apparently her passion ties into some magical powers she doesn’t know how to use yet. But magic users are actually pretty rare even in the Kingdom of Wander, so that makes her a sought after commodity, despite being a novice. So right from the beginning she finds she’s the target of unscrupulous royals looking to exploit her powers, and that drives a lot of the major plot.

Gonzalez: Bel’s going to essentially find out what it’s like to be on the other side of the rabid fandom. That’s all I’ll say about that.

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What do you hope readers take away when they put down the first issue of Welcome to Wanderland? What is your ideal reaction -- beyond immediately wanting issue #2, of course -- and how do you hope to see this story resonate?

Ball: I definitely want people to love Wanderland, and to get excited about space-making, but more than that I want the characters to resonate with people. I hope readers can see themselves in Bel and Riot. They both have very down-to-Earth emotional journeys to go on, despite their magical surroundings, and I hope that resonates with readers who are going on their own emotional journeys.

Gonzalez: I want everyone to really like Riot’s costume. And then make real life versions of her costume. And then give me the costumes. And then I will live in them for the rest of my days.

Welcome to Wanderland #1 is scheduled for release in Sept. 2018 from BOOM! Studios.

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