A Place To Hang Your Cape has reviewed a variety of issues of the Action Labs comic Awake. Here we talk to the co-creator and artist Brian Hess about his influences and the creation of the comic.
AP2HYC: How did you begin developing your artwork? When did the interest start to incubate?
Brian Hess: Since I can remember I have always been drawing. I used to create characters as a kid and put them into little comics. Throughout school I took as many art classes as I could. I worked as hard as I could copying everything that I could find.
AP2HYC: Do you ever write as well, or do you stick to the artwork?
Hess: I have been writing more lately and I am currently writing another project with John Reilly of Herald Love Craft & Tesla also from Action Lab. There was very little writing I did for Awake, it started out as a visual story pitch with the first 7 pages or so. Susan was nice enough to keep those pages in for the most part.
AP2HYC: How did the partnership with writer Susan Beneville come into fruition?
Hess: Susan and I have a great working relationship, having worked together on a few projects before we even thought about doing Awake together. I threw together a 7 page visual story pitch, and she turned it into something so amazing and beyond what I could even think of. I cannot wait to work on more Awake and future projects with her.
AP2HYC: Did the synopsis for the story come from yourself, Susan or an amalgamation of ideas?
Hess: It started as 7 page story pitch, I had basically written a huge run on sentence that Susan took and blew up into what the story is now.
AP2HYC: What was the inspiration for this particular story?
Hess: I was always drawn to fantasy adventure stories like Star Wars, Treasure Planet, etc. We wanted to make a true all ages title that everyone could enjoy. A little girl who has this unbelievable power to communicate with planets. She is in the middle of learning how to harness this power and she’s dealing with one of the most difficult situations that she possibly could.
AP2HYC: What were your favourite comic books as an aspiring artist?
Hess: I am heavily influenced by Disney Animation. I was born in 1982 and grew up in the 2D animation revival of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Comics were also a HUGE influence on my work, anything from Archie to the X-Men. Jim Lee, Steve Purcell and Bill Watterson. Currently I am really into the continued work of Doug Tenapel and Jeff Smith with books like RASL and Ratfist.
AP2HYC: The colours within the comic work well to separate story lines. Is this something you do consciously? Is the use of particular colours important to you as an artist?
Hess: It was very intentional, separating the two stories visually and geographically was very important. Showcasing the two sides of the planet that were tearing themselves apart in different ways and how they were connected. In the beginning the colors were desaturated and I decided to flip the colors completely upside down and in some situations over saturate the colors. This has been one thing that everyone who picks up the books has commented on, and I am really happy that I changed the color palette. We have an amazing up and coming colorist on out team now, her name is Darne Lang and she is just awesome to work with.
AP2HYC: Do you come up with characters first, and draw them around their personalities, or vice versa?
Hess: Actually yeah, the characters come to me along with a basic premise. Their personalities tend to grow as I draw the characters more, or as Susan and I explored the dynamics between the characters and their relationships.
AP2HYC: In the first issue a number of questions and unexplained appearances/occurrences arise. How important do you feel mystery is in terms of story telling within comic books?
Hess: We tried not throwing a ton of exposition in the first issues and instead went with just throwing the reader into the story at a moment when tensions are high and the characters are experiencing huge changes. Mystery can be a good and bad thing, it can cause you to keep readers but it can also have the opposite affect. There were a lot of questions that fans asked after reading the first issue so when we had the opportunity to do an issue#0 (Our Free Comic Book Day offering) we decided to tell some more of the back story.
AP2HYC: Can we expect more Awake? Or are there other projects in the pipeline?
Hess: Awake is going to close out to the second arc for sure, we are still mulling over the idea and trying to see if it will be worth it to a third arc or not. We have one ready to go if people want it. Even if we take a break the story for the third arc is so exciting it would be a shame if we didn’t finish the story off at some point.
Thank you to Brian for taking the time to answer our questions, and give us an insight into where Awake came from and the work that has gone into making it the success that it is. It has kept us hooked from the beginning and we recommend it to any sci-fi fan. Whilst the first issue may leave you scratching your head, holding out to the third and fourth issue rewards that commitment with some wonderful storytelling, both through words and pictures. And now that Awake is available in a number of outlets, there is no excuse not to read it.
Have you read Awake yet? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet! Awake can be found here: http://www.actionlabcomics.com/shop-comics/