Hello friends and welcome to another patented AP2HYC “back and forth conversation,” also known in some parts as an interview! I always thought the term interview was a little boring, but what do I know? We recently had the chance to talk to the creative team behind Kamikaze, which has returned to Kickstarter with its second volume. So, without any further delay let’s see what Havana Nguyen, Carrie Tupper and Alan Tupper had to say about Kamikaze!
AP2HYC: Tell us a bit about the world of Kamikaze.
Alan: Kamikaze is set somewhere in the US Midwest two centuries after a pandemic wipes out most of the plant life on Earth. The planet is a dustbowl, and what’s left of humanity is clustered around the few places that were able to preserve viable cropland. Civilization has evolved into a bizarre mixture of corporate feudalism controlling fortified cropland, and bands of outcasts scratching out a living beyond the limits of these city-states. Technology and knowledge have shared a rocky road. There are some notable advances (anti-gravity being one example), but in other places technology has really regressed. Almost every aspect of life is informed by a guarantee that dust will be everywhere you don’t want it, and food is pretty scarce.
AP2HYC: What themes does the story engage?
Havana: To me, Kamikaze is about stepping up to the plate when things get rough. It’s about facing the fight instead of running away. Markesha (our main character) has lived a life of running away from problems and the hurt she feels inside. She’s the type to walk out on you in the middle of an argument. On the one hand, I admire her for perseverance to make things work for her family, but on the other hand she doesn’t handle conflict and discomfort well and it’s something she needs to learn.
Alan: Perseverance, sacrifice and empathy are three of our big themes from the series. With Volume 2 specifically, those themes are really centered around the question of whether running or standing one’s ground is the wiser choice. Markesha’s instincts are screaming at her to run from the mountain of problems that have been heaped upon her, and it takes a large degree of desperation for her to resist those instincts.
AP2HYC: What were some of the inspirations behind Kamikaze?
Carrie: Animation as a whole. Alan and I are both animators by trade, so we wanted to create a comic that looked animated. As the lead writer I pulled a lot from favorite films and TV shows, but also real life. A good deal of the characters are heavily inspired by the observations of people I grew up with. A good example would be the relationship between our lead character Markesha and her dad Toshi. I grew up in a single parent home, so I pull a lot of inspiration for that relationship from my experiences of life with just me and my mom.
Havana: I am the black sheep and didn’t attend art school. I love studying international affairs and I’m proud of my degree but meeting Carrie and Alan after college was the first time I ever for to met fellow die-hard animation fans. We are motivated by our belief that animation can be a storytelling medium for adults. Kamikaze has been inspired by shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Legend of Korra, Young Justice and Gargoyles.
AP2HYC: Kamikaze was originally intended to be an animated series. What challenges did you face in converting it into the sequential art medium?
Alan: The biggest challenges for us have been compensating for the lack of sound and motion. We want the reading experience to be just as immersive and satisfying as it would be to watch. Not having sound means we need to be very deliberate about what sounds we choose to portray on the page. Motion can also do a lot to sell action and emotion, so we’ve had to be conscious about how to make sure we’re getting across the emotion or action with as few panels as possible. In some ways, it’s taking the act of story-boarding to an extreme level.
AP2HYC: The collaborative process for Kamikaze is somewhat unorthodox with regards to who does what. Tell us a bit about what goes into putting together the weekly installments.
Carrie: Unorthodox is a great way to describe it! Well, I’m in my happy writing place when I’m doing screenwriting, so every episode of the comic is written out in full before we even start putting pencil to comic book paper. I go through a heavy process of edits and re-edits. Finally, the three of us read the script aloud with a group of friends for final work. From there we break the script down into comic-format scripts. Then things shift over to Alan.
Alan: Since the beginning of the comic, we’ve always kept its roots as an animated series in mind. To that end, we follow that production process rather closely. The page art starts off as a rough thumbnail that becomes a full-size layout drawing which focuses almost exclusively on the characters. Once it’s gone through Havana’s clean up/redraw phase to get the characters on model, we scan the page in and it enters into a parallel process. Carrie inks and paints the characters the same way they would be in an animated production, while I focus on building out the backgrounds. It gets composited together at the end with lettering and effects. This process can lead to some quirks and slowdowns, but it gives us some unique signature style.
AP2HYC: What sorts of extras are included in the collected edition?
Havana: We never expected this to happen, but our fans are oddly curious about Jackal from the prologue! We may get a little bit more information about him.
Alan: In addition to Episode 2 story and worldbuilding info, there will be an introduction by Afua Richardson and a short spin-off comic we did for the Holiday 2016 season. The comic (“Lumenox Letter”) is a prequel that helps shed a bit more light on Markesha and Toshi’s situation.
Carrie: Yeah, the “Lumenox Letter” is something I’m really happy that we’re printing in this edition. Our regular readers really loved it. Just be prepared for a punch to the gut; we had a couple people catching “the feels” with that one.
AP2HYC: This time around we are getting Soundbox as a bonus story. How does Soundbox tie into Kamikaze?
Havana: We created the “Kamikaze Wall Tales” as a series of one-shot short stories. It takes so long for us to roll out the main storyline of Kamikaze and out passionate fans are always asking us when we get to see Markesha rockin’ the Kamikaze suit. “Wall Tales” fast-forwards our readers to that point and we get to see Kamikaze carry out missions. My favorite part is that our “Wall Tales” are done by guest creators. Sometimes I am in disbelief with the momentum and fanbase we have built around the brand, so it feels awesome to lift new creators and share the spotlight! Soundbox is exciting because it is over twice as long as our previous “Wall Tale” and we finally get to see more of the Outer City citizens! Oh, and the Dire Dogs too!
AP2HYC: What are some of the rewards on the Kickstarter campaign?
Havana: Back by popular demand we are including stickers, enamel pins, a commission tier and additional cameo slots! The commission tier is a perfect tier for our writer fans who need character designs for their stories.
Alan: In addition to a bunch of cool swag, we have reward tiers aimed specifically at newcomers. Because this is the second volume of the series, we have tiers which include copies of Volume 1 and Volume 2 together. We also have a donation tier where backers can choose a non-profit for us to donate books to, and a special wholesale tier for booksellers looking to stock up on Volumes 1 and 2.
AP2HYC: What’s in store for Kamikaze in the future?
Alan: Shortly after the end of the Kickstarter we will begin releasing Episode 3, which we think fans will really resonate with. In some ways it’s the conclusion of the first story arc, and we feel it’s a fitting finale. In other ways it’s really just the beginning of something larger.
Havana: Carrie and Alan got to go to TAC a few years ago so I am looking forward to coming along this year! We are gonna keep pushing for the animated series for our fans. Regardless, I was really impressed after I read Episode 3 and I think people are going to love our next installment.
Carrie: Readers can expect more action in the upcoming Episode 3, and learn a bit more about our favorite suit wearing spymaster, Orson Stykes.
AP2HYC: What are some of your favorite comics/movies/stories?
Carrie: So The Little Mermaid and Batman basically make up my childhood. I adored Batman, which confused my mother a lot. Harry Potter was a big deal for me too. As I got older I really gravitated toward anime and manga, especially dramas like Inu Yasha, Gundam Wing and Ronin Warriors. The Prince of Egypt and Atlantis are also favorites of mine. Alan and I quote Atlantis on a regular basis at home. Other than that I love the really old, bizarre fairy tales and myths.
Havana: My favorite animated movies are Aladdin, The Prince of Egypt and Hunchback of Notre Dame. The latter two are examples of how animated movies can be powerful mediums for drama. Other favorite films include Black Swan, The Aviator, Inception, Slumdog Millionaire, and Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man trilogy. I mention the Spider-Man movies because those movies are what really got me into geekdom. I was always into anime and cartoons but those movies ignited a love for the superhero genre.
My mom never understood why I liked comics and cartoons so much. The Spider-Man movies marked the first time my mom and I ever had an intersecting interest in geekdom. I was used to the confident, competent movie superheroes of the Batman, Superman and even X-Men movies…and to follow the quiet and awkward Peter Parker in his journey to become Spider-Man inspired a lot of confidence in me as a teenager. It makes the hard work on Kamikaze so worth it to hear fans say the same thing about Markesha.
Alan: There’s quite a few places I personally draw inspiration from with Kamikaze. Frank Herbert‘s Dune, Star Trek (Especially Deep Space Nine), heist movies like Ocean’s 11, and Ghost In the Shell. From a comics angle I love the work in Blacksad, and I’m constantly hoping to replicate some of the less problematic components of Tintin (especially Herge‘s later work).
AP2HYC: Thanks guys!