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Star-Crossed Lovers Meets the Warriors: In Conversation With Frankee White, Writer of 20 FISTS

When we recently reviewed Frankee White‘s new comic 20 FISTS, we were blown away by her excellent use of genre mixing and Kat Baumann‘s gorgeous line art. We were very fortunate to be able to speak with Frankee about his inspirations, creative process, and the like!

A Place To Hang Your Cape: 20 FISTS has an interesting premise. What made you decide to have a comic that focuses on a singular fight between two different crews?

Frankee White: It started off with my love of the film The Warriors. I love stories about street gangs that solve their problems with their fists and it’s a genre that really has fallen out of fashion. I wanted to do something in that vein and try to revitalize it. Structurally I liked the idea of doing Three Rounds like a fighting game, it added a fun element to the story where with every round the action and desperation could be ramped up.

AP2HYC: Chel’s relationships are complicated ones to say the least. In particular, her relationship with Billie is something we don’t see often. How did you go about coming up with this idea as the main conflict? 

White: While the action and fighting are fun, this book is designed to be fast and furious, it needed to have strong emotional core that could keep the reader coming back. So, I pulled a little bit of “Romeo & Juliet’s” warring families with lovers caught in the middle concept but amped up the animosity by having Chel & Billie already be on the outs as the story starts.

Bits of their relationship are culled from my own past experiences and I stuck with the old mantra, “write what you know.” From beginning to end in writing, I wanted the story to be up close and personal, as if the viewer had been sitting in the bar at the beginning and followed along for the fight. That’s why there’s no interior narration or monologues. Everything the viewer can read is as if they were feet from the action themselves. Which creates an interesting atmosphere as a reader (I think), because you’re only hearing bits and pieces of dialogue, you’re only seeing segments of these characters’ lives and as a reader you’re forced to make assumptions and infer who you think The No Names and The Big Jackets are based on a very small amount of dialogue. I’ve already heard from some other creatives that re-reading it has given them a different perspective than the first read, which is great to hear. I hope that this will be a story that people will want to come back to again and again.

AP2HYC: Is there a particular reason why you chose to have the comic in black and white instead of colour? Especially since there is a good amount of violence throughout the story? Was this a mutual decision made between you and Kat Baumann or did one of you come up with the idea?

White: This ended up the way it did for a few reasons. We originally did want to do interior colour, but it wasn’t working out with the original colourist and it eventually became cost prohibitive. Meanwhile, Kat had already finished the first two chapters and it was at that point that I realized that colours weren’t necessary. Kat’s line-art is gorgeous. It can stand on its own.

Additionally, I love black & white comics. I think they’ve been neglected in the American comic industry as time has gone on. Some of my favorite comics ever made are black & white. Terry Moore’s work particularly was an inspiration for 20 Fists. I’m hoping that people will read 20 Fists and see how great Kat’s art is and realize it looks amazing as is and that black & white comics can still deliver a hard-hitting story that captures the reader’s attention and imagination. That being said, all along the process we’ve talked about adding colours down the road, maybe for a special edition or a reprint.

AP2HYC: What was it like working with Kat Baumann? 

White: Working with Kat was a dream! She is a fantastic artist and creative partner. She knew exactly what I was thinking most of the time and just took the script and made it better. She really had to do much of the heavy lifting in 20 Fists. Because there’s no monologues or narration it is a very script light book. Much of the script is written in how the characters are physically reacting to their situations and I’ve learned that Kat is apparently a master at capturing the human condition. Any time I got an email from her with new pages it was like Christmas morning. I look forward to working with her again on future projects!

AP2HYC: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should be on the lookout for?

White: My next big one is a mech narrative zine called PROJECT: STARLESS DAYDREAM. It’s like the finale to a mech anime that never existed. I’m calling it a narrative zine because while I wrote the whole 50 page story and it’s one cohesive narrative, I teamed up with about 30 other artists who are each doing 1-2 pages. Sequential art, pin-ups, double page spreads, character profiles. It’s got a bit of a zine structure to it. It’s coming along nicely and if all goes as planned I should have it out Fall of 2020.

You can purchase your copy of 20 Fists here! Have you had a chance to read this star-crossed lovers tale? Let us know in the comments below or send us your thoughts Twitter!

About the author

Jillian Diblasio

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