Looking to live out her dreams of becoming an actress, timid Piña Axletree takes a tonic and wakes up in a parallel world, leading a drug syndicate. Will she run back to the familiar doldrums of her reality or become a more ruthless version of herself to achieve her dreams?
In the vein of ORPHAN BLACK and FRINGE, Dead Dreams: The Lucid Chronicles #1 is a 32-page sci-fi thriller where parallel worlds exist, dreams are drugs, and doppelgängers dare to change the world, funding now on Zoop.
COMIC BOOK YETI: This is Byron O’Neal for Comic Book Yeti sitting down today with creators Brittany Matter and Dailen Ogden to talk about their new sci-fi thriller Dead Dreams: The Lucid Chronicles soon to be funding on Zoop. Welcome to the Cryptid Creator Corner.
I caught up reading the advance copy and this is a lot of fun. There are echoes in the book that remind me of other mind-bending trippy sci-fi parallels like Jeff Noon’s novel Vurt or director Alex Proyas’ Dark City.
Everyone tries to make sense of their dreams at some point. "What did that mean? Why can’t I remember that important detail when other things remain so vivid?" The gatekeeper in your story that kicks everything off is a simple merchant, or seemingly so. Oftentimes, this person would be depicted as a shady figure playing a trickster role in the narrative but you choose to take it in a different direction that I found really fascinating as they struggle with their own unrealized dreams. Is this a story more about everyone’s struggle towards self-discovery?
BRITTANY MATTER: You caught me! Yes, it’s about that for sure. I think it’s difficult throughout life to know what you want to do with yourself, to even find or create your purpose. Sometimes that purpose finds you and I think sometimes that lack of control over our own individual purpose pushes us towards self-discovery, whether we want it or not. Dead Dreams explores how Piña will go through that push and pull through the choices she’ll face.
CBY: The dreams are induced by a drug or tonic. Are these merely a catalyst to move your main character Piña into conflict?
BM: They are a catalyst, and that’s a great word because in the first universe shown in Dead Dreams, the dream tonics are more alchemical. Sure, they help Piña travel into an altogether different universe and body, that of her doppelgänger, forcing her outside of herself which causes conflict. But I’d also go so far as to call them a guide, of sorts.
CBY: Did you do any research into dream meanings or interpretation to create any of the visual moments in the book?
BM: I don’t recall doing any research like that. I did, however, research herbs and their properties when I developed all the dream tonics/drugs. In the script, I had a couple visuals in mind but it wasn’t truly visual until Dailen came on and injected pure life and energy into the story, which feels quite dreamlike.
DAILEN OGDEN: I’ll chime in here too, since this is a question about visuals. I didn’t do much by way of external research to develop the aesthetics of dreaming in the book—rather, I tried to channel the way things look when you close your eyes really tightly and press on them. Everyone’s dreams look different but that shower of sparks, the weird light and color, the impressions of things you were just seeing? I thought that was kind of an awesome and more universal jumping-off point. To me it made the most sense as visual shorthand, since closing your eyes is the first step to dreaming.
CBY: You chose "dead" as your adjective to go along with "dreams" in the title, and there’s some corresponding imagery in the book with a plague doctor. I don’t want to give too much away here, but my brain is a little twisted as to where this story is going as we started off in a very comfortable, almost farmers market place and now Piña is navigating being embroiled with what looks like a drug dream cartel or something.
What are you trying to do to us?
BM: Haha! I’m trying to leave readers like you hanging so that you want more! This debut issue is just the beginning.
CBY: What was the genesis of your working relationship on the project?
BM: Dailen and I got connected through Riley Biehl’s Miranda in the Maelstrom series. I was the series editor and Dailen was the artist for issue #2. Once I saw Dailen’s art, I felt a strong otherworldly pull towards them and I couldn’t help but ask if they’d want to make comics with me.
DO: Pretty much what Brittany said! She and I met after Miranda was completed, at Emerald City Comic Con. That book was such a blast that saying yes felt like a no-brainer!
CBY: How long have you been developing this?
BM: Since 2016! It started as a short but as soon as my friend and colleague Heather Ayres started asking me probing questions about it, all the answers started spilling out as if I had planned it to be much longer. After that, it only seemed fitting to ask Heather to edit what had turned into a full-blown miniseries.
CBY: Dailen, is it to you that I’d credit the graphic elements of the design? Those drug graphics are exquisite. Somebody is gonna get tattoos from those. Cheshire is wicked.
DO: Dead Dreams is a collaborative effort featuring some awesome people with way more graphic design chops than I have—in this case, the work was done by Sasha Head. She took some small details from pages I’d already drawn and expanded them out into extremely cool designs. I’m happy to be the muse but I can’t take too much of the credit!
CBY: You went to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Was illustration always the clear pathway for you, as you have clear graphic design chops?
DO: Illustration was actually not my first path; I started out in my college career as a Fine Arts major instead, of all things. But ultimately my love of storytelling took me down a different path. I love incorporating graphic elements into my work, don’t get me wrong! But graphic design wasn’t even really on the table for me—I think designers operate in a totally different headspace from what I do. It’s extremely cool but not something I can exactly recreate with my current skillset.
CBY: Talk to me about your visual design process. The panels on the first couple pages are beautiful, carrying the middle scene upwards past the top and bottom panels to create more environmental intimacy. How do you do your layouts?
DO: Credit for the first few pages actually goes to Hari Conner, whose layouts provided the springboard for my pages! They did the work on pages 1-6 when Dead Dreams was still just a baby pitch, and I couldn’t stand to see all that beauty go to waste. The framework they laid for me on this book is so, so valuable, and I’m glad I could carry some of that initial energy forward into the final book.
As for how I do my layouts—it’s a little bit of an intuitive process that can be hard to explain. I ask myself a few questions: is there a moment on this page that is the most important, that needs to be in the largest panel? If there is, I like to start there and build around it. If not, I try to make the layout itself the star, to break things up in the shape of the conversation, for instance, or to draw a layout that enhances the environment of the story or the passage of time. I’d say it’s still the step I struggle with the most, but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s a fun challenge to try and push the medium and make it work for your story in new and unexpected ways.
CBY: Brag on the rest of the creative team.
DO: Oh, where to begin? I’m glad I had the chance to talk up Hari a bit. That means it’s time to shout out Drew Wills, my flatter. He’s my collaborator on just about every book I do, far beyond Dead Dreams, and I’d be lost without him. Anybody who knows me knows that I’d give Drew a kidney if he needed it, haha! His work only shows in the barest sense on my final pages, but it saves me hours in the long run and I’m always thrilled to have him on my team.
BM: I mean, Dailen’s art takes my breath away. Their work elevated Dead Dreams in a way I couldn’t have imagined, and I’m just still so in awe. And the colors! I can’t get over them. Dailen and Drew are a phenomenal team.
Letterer Gabriela Downie is an ace at lettering placement that’s natural for the eye and knows all the tricks to use sound effects to amplify emotions. Editor Heather Ayres as my sounding board and developmental editor helped keep the characters and world-building consistent throughout.
The design aesthetic along with the signature logo were designed by Sasha E. Head, who created a marvelous motif, which perfectly captures the futuristic fantasy that’s the silver lining of this sci-fi comic. Like Dailen mentioned, Sasha also designed the alchemic in-world logos inspired by their art. Everyone working together truly created a symphony and I can’t wait for y’all to experience this beautiful book we made together!
CBY: So, Heather Ayres is the editor for the project. You’ve got a wealth of experience as an editor yourself. Is it hard to strike a balance between writing and editing a project?
BM: Actually yes. I will edit things that I write ad nauseam. For example, I wrote the first four of the five issues of Dead Dreams, had Heather edit it (developmental edits, copyedits, and proofreading), and even though I haven’t looked back in a long time, I still have this burning urge to go back and edit it all. Maybe it’s because I haven’t written the fifth script yet…but Heather’s great at reminding me that "perfect" is the enemy of "good," so I try to keep that in mind with my own work.
CBY: Tell me who your target audience is. Who will really enjoy this?
BM: I’d say Young Adult to New Adult readers. Folks who enjoy the thrilling aspects and doppelgängers of Orphan Black, the science-fiction of Fringe, even the mind-bending mystery of Total Recall.
CBY: You chose Zoop as your crowdfunding platform. Why Zoop?
BM: They offered to handle shipping and fulfillment! They’re also more hands-on than other platforms which I appreciate greatly.
CBY: Let’s just assume you get funded. Where would you like to go with this? How many are there in the series?
BM: I’d love to continue the series! Like I said, four of the five scripts are finished so hopefully there’s an audience for it, they’ll want more, and I’ll be able to fund the rest of the series.
CBY: We’re focusing a lot on dreams today, is making comics living the dream for you both?
BM: Absolutely! I love working with people and as a freelance writer/editor, I often work by myself, so making comics allows me to work with others more so. I just love the collaboration that’s born from making comics with a team of awesome creators and seeing what we can produce together is a dream come true; maybe that’s cliché but I’m good with it.
DO: I think calling it a “dream job” as an artist is probably doing a disservice to the reality of the work—it can be grueling, painful, and stressful. But I’m very passionate about what I do and I know I’ll keep doing it in some shape or another for the rest of my life. Telling stories like this scratches an itch for me that I can’t get anywhere else, haha!
CBY: Do either of you have any other current or future projects you’d like to shed some light on?
BM: Dead Dreams has been the main squeeze lately! Many years of making it with the team and months of prep for the campaign. Though recently, I had the pleasure of editing Super Best Friend #1-2, a superhero adventure series by Jason Inman, George Kambadais, and Taylor Esposito. It has less than two days left on Kickstarter as of this writing! Also, I’ve heard rumblings about Brentt Harshman’s Western anthology Off Into The Sunset coming available in the near future to folks who missed the Kickstarter. I wrote a short for it called Burn the Breeze with art by Rye Hickman and letters by Taylor Esposito. It’s about a gun-armed bounty hunter who’s up against her past, present, and a corrupt mayor.
DO: One of the coolest things about Dead Dreams is that the pages are already complete—that means when we get funded, everything is already ready to go! It also means that I’m in the thick of working on another book right now, and a lot of the people reading this may recognize it from my last CBY interview. I’m talking, of course, about WIFWULF, co-created by myself, Collin Kelly, and Jackson Lanzing, and coming out through Vault Comics later this year. If you like folksy horror, fairy tales, and more wolves than you can shake a steak dinner at, you’ll be right at home with that book.
CBY: Last question, Dailen, tell me about Dagger. I had a python as a pet when I was much younger.
DO: Haha, Dag steals the show for every interview I do! He’s a Northern White-Lipped Python, also known as a D’Albertis Python. They’re a species native to New Guinea, and though they have a reputation for being jumpy and aggressive, mine is a very sweet, well-adjusted guy. I like to hold him for recorded interviews because having something to do with my hands helps loosen up my brain.
CBY: Thank you both for joining me today to talk about your project Dead Dreams.
BM: Thanks for having us, Byron!
DO: Yes, thanks so much!
CBY: This is a pretty exciting one folks. Make sure to head over to Zoop and take a look at it. This is Byron O’Neal for Comic Book Yeti. Thanks for tuning in today. See you next time and take care, everyone.
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All Dead Dreams characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Brittany Matter and Dailen Ogden or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED