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Comics for a Resistance Audience: In Conversation with John Luzar, Writer of The Worth & The Cost

Newly established micropublisher Resistance Comics has hit the ground running with their currently, and hugely, successful Kickstarter campaign for its debut comic The Worth & The Cost. Written by John Luzar, illustrated by Beth Varni, lettered by Toben Raciot and edited by Jason Fleece, The Worth & The Cost packs in progressive politics, wonderful artwork and spry story-telling into a cohesive package.

We caught up with John to discover more about his first ever comics writing experience, and what may be in store for Resistance Comics in the future.

A Place To Hang Your Cape: This is your debut comic as a writer, what inspired you to produce The Worth & The Cost?

John Luzar: So, I’ve always always ALWAYS wanted to write comics. The hard part for me was never inspiration, it was confidence. Anyway, after a couple years of running my blog, and building a solid audience there, and a few classes (at Comics Experience, which I wholeheartedly recommend), I finally had the confidence to take the plunge. Only took 40 years.

AP2HYC: Did you find any challenges writing your first comic?

Luzar: Oh yes. My experience has largely been in theatre, mostly as an actor, some as a playwright and director… anyway, in that world, dialogue does a lot of the heavy lifting, storytelling-wise, and obviously, that won’t fly in comics. There’s so much LESS dialogue in a comic, it kind of goes against my first instincts, and it often feels like I’m under-writing.

And thinking visually is a challenge, I’m hoping to improve as time goes by. Beth made a number of improvements to my script, usually by eliminating unnecessary panels. I still struggle with choosing which moments to include, and which precise moment in time is the right one to capture.

AP2HYC: The Kickstarter campaign for The Worth & The Cost describes it as a comic for a resistance audience. What might that mean, exactly?

Luzar: Well, my blog is definitely targeted at that anti-Trump audience. I’ve met so many great, activist, people through the blog, and seen so many of my “real life” friends get more and more involved, politically, I wanted to tell a story about what motivates folks to move past “Man, somebody should do something about this,” to “I’M gonna be the somebody who does something about this.”

AP2HYC: There’s lots of grey morals found in the characters of this comic, both protagonists and antagonists. Would you say that’s a central theme running through The Worth & The Cost?

Luzar: Absolutely. And hopefully it gives the characters a little more humanity than just action heroes and mustache-twirling villains. Back when I was an actor, complex characters were just more exciting to play, y’know?

AP2HYC: There’s a large world established in this comic. How did you go about condensing such a world into a 22-page one-shot?

Luzar: That reminds me of the advice I picked up in a world-building workshop at C2E2 last year… one of the pitfalls the instructors mentioned was the tendency to show off the details of the world you’ve created at the expense of the story, so I try to keep an eye on that, and trim out any superfluous information that the reader doesn’t need. Like, at one point, I laid out a whole huge backstory for the Emperor, but none of that made it into the final book, and I’ve honestly forgotten most of it.

AP2HYC: How did you find the rest of the comic’s creative team, and what’s it been like working with them?

Luzar: Well, Jason, the editor, is an old friend I’ve worked with in Chicago theatre. I happened to come across a tweet of his expressing interest in breaking into comics editing, and once I had a draft of the script that was ready for production, I reached out to him to see if he was still interested, and he was. And thank god, because otherwise I’d still be tinkering with that script this week, instead of sending the finished product to the printer.

Anyway, Jason made a list of artists he found who’d hung out their shingle online, and we spent an afternoon looking at about 50 different portfolios. What we liked about Beth was her skill at drawing expressive faces. There are a lot of moments in the script where a facial expression has to be just right to communicate the story, and she nailed every single one, so it was definitely the right choice.

Toben came recommended by a friend of Jason’s, I think. He’s great (and fast). Actually, there were a couple of notes we gave after his first pass that he refused to take, and he explained why what we wanted would look bad. And of course, he was totally right. When you’re just starting out, it’s very good to have collaborators with more experience than you.

AP2HYC: What kind of visual style would you say Beth brings to the comic?

Luzar: Again, I come back to her gift for faces… she’s made this beautiful, exotic, fantasy world, and then on top of that, she grounds it at all times in specific, identifiable, human emotion.

AP2HYC: I gather this is the first of your ‘parable’ comics, can you tell us about more about these future projects?

Luzar: Well, we’re working on the next one now. It’s called MINE, and it’s got a similar medieval-meets-sci-fi setting. It’s about a king struggling with the burden of leadership, feeling unfit to be in charge during a time of war, but pushing through as best as he can because…well, it’s his job to do. And then when catastrophe strikes, suddenly he has to play God, and literally hand-pick which of his subjects will live and which will die. So, y’know… a light comedy.

You can discover more about The Worth & The Cost via its Kickstarter campaign. Will you be joining the resistance? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

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Fred McNamara

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