Colorful Conversation with CURT PIRES about "Indigo Children"
Comic Book Yeti contributor Andrew welcomed Curt Pires back into the Yeti Cave to talk about his newest comic Indigo Children from Image Comics. Issue #1 is out March 29th. Curt talks about the inspiration for this comic, his focus on making the best damn comic he can, and the dual nature of having to be both a creator and a producer.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Curt, it’s a pleasure to have you back to cover another fresh title of yours. You’ve clearly been staying busy since we sat down over New America. So, let’s start with the title, Indigo Children, which is rooted in 1970s new-age pseudoscientific studies of children exhibiting supernatural or inexplicable tendencies and powers. While there’s no substantiating through peer-reviewed research into the justification for the term within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), you’ve added attributes to your story beyond those characteristically investigated in Indigo child cases. What drew you towards utilizing this terminology instead of creating something entirely novel (e.g. - the X-Men, etc.)
CURT PIRES: The idea really spawned off of stumbling onto the account of one of these Indigo children and the story surrounding him, as well as the mystery of where he is now. Given the way my head works, I started envisioning a story built off this. I saw the fertile building blocks for a narrative that’s equal parts X-Files / Close Encounters meets X-Men. But more importantly, I saw it as a way to evolve and push the storytelling pioneered in these works into new frontiers. I’m fundamentally uninterested in doing cover band work of our popular works—things have got to push the narrative forward in an interesting way.
CBY: While in previous decades, the concept of Indigo children has been touted as a next step in human evolution, you’ve established a much different potential explanation involving both reincarnation and extraterrestrials. You’d mentioned the inspiration was a news story from 2017 about a Russian boy who claimed he’d lived a past life on Mars. What did you draw upon from the assertions of the boy, Boriska Kipriyanovich, and what can you share (without spoiling anything) around how you’ve built out upon this initial premise to create a narrative world in which this claim may, in fact, be the basis for the appearance of Indigo Children across the planet?
CP: The narrative springboards heavily off the initial story I read, but spins it into interesting and new dimensions. It was important that we not ground things too heavily in the real-life account, because, A) we don’t have a resolution for it and, B) that’s his story to tell, not mine. Obviously, this is a comic book, so there’s some elevated genre stuff and some good old-fashioned spectacle, but I was interested in keeping things as grounded and as humanistic as possible as a way of getting readers to engage and invest in the story in a deeper way than simply reading another punch fest. Our first Indigo Child we meet, Alexei, is really the gateway into this world, and as we go, we stumble onto the other Indigo Children and explore how each of the kids’ pasts are connected and how their lives intersect.
CBY: Moving from the narrative to the visual style, you’ve teamed up again with Alex Diotto and Dee Cunniffe, whom you previously collaborated with on Youth. I see Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is back with you on this project, as well. What enabled you to return to this creative arrangement, and can you detail how Rockwell White came into the picture in the development of Indigo Children?
CP: Alex and Dee and I were looking to reunite after we did this book Olympia at Image. We still had Youth going at comiXology, but we started working on this even before Youth was out. The seeds of this idea had been percolating a while longer—I think I initially stumbled onto the Boriska story in late 2018 or 2019 and began tinkering with it. Rockwell and I had been looking for something to work on together for a while and so it made sense to do this one, which felt like the strongest idea I had in my pocket at the time.
CBY: Like much of your other work, Indigo Children takes place in a form of alternate, heightened, near-contemporary vision of Earth. Not all of your titles involve individuals with super-powers, yet Indigo Children still maintains a rather grounded tone seen in your other work and doesn’t veer off into the costumed fantasy many superhero titles are prone to indulge in. Can you cite other super-powered character-driven stories that come to mind that deliver similar tones? (The nearest that came to my mind upon initially reading Indigo Children was the 2012 film, Chronicle, for instance.)
CP: I think I’m drawn to grounded work because it’s what I respond to as a reader or viewer. Keeping things grounded and then just dovetailing into something fantastical is a great way to create a shorthand that this story matters—that it’s something that you can buy into. That there are stakes and a human cost to everything you see happening. It’s the difference between Game Of Thrones and other less grounded fantasy that makes my eyes glaze over.
CBY: On the note of grounded depictions of superpowers on film, I’ve read this title has already been optioned for a feature film adaptation (and it’s very much framed and paced in a manner that would lend itself well to the screen). I see Jeff Ludwig (who is also attached to the Alan Wake adaptation following his work under blockbuster producer, Lionel Wigram on recent hits) is slated to produce. Can you tell us a bit more about how you’ve considered this multimedia presentation of Indigo Children in your writing process, and whether you’re writing the comic as a close pacing to what you expect for the screen (i.e. - a companion narrative storyboarding process), or if/where you see key points of divergence between the two different formats in which the story will be presented?
CP: Outside of evaluating whether the initial concept of a book is marketable at all, I don’t really think about the film and TV stuff when I’m working on the comics. My main interest is in making the best, most perfect comic book that I can. And that is something I feel like we have to work for and earn with each issue. There always ends up being differences when you’re talking about adapting these properties. The main thing for me is that the spirit stays intact, and that your partners on the projects are passionate about the story and respectful of the creative teams.
CBY: Though you’ve already detailed the initial inspiration for this story, I noted the existence of a film from 2012 entitled Indigo Children, dealing with the concept of youth with heightened abilities. Have you happened to check this out just to see how the concept has been handled on film before? If so, what did it do to help you distinguish your own narrative intent when pitching your film adaptation? Separate from this potential secondary reference point for other portrayals of Indigo children, what other depictions across the media landscape have fed into the narrative and aesthetic of this title?
CP: I didn’t engage with the other film or media based on this at all. When I’m working on my projects I’m aware there are sometimes competing projects of a similar nature and really the best way to differentiate yourself is to just tell the best damn story possible. I almost go out of my way to shut out similar projects. I want everything to be unique.
CBY: Relative to many other comic creators with a portfolio of your depth and duration, you have had a very high level conversion rate for comic properties to multimedia development options. Can you explore your approach to this process and what works best for you in terms of communicating the adaptation potential? What avenues have you found are most appropriate for engaging with film and television media production companies and separating your work from the immense amount of content to contend with in the current comics market?
CP: I’m a bit of a broken record, but the easiest way to differentiate your work is just to have it be as good as possible from a craft and entertainment standpoint. Beyond that, it’s putting as much time into being a producer and businessman as I do into being a creative. That’s the part people miss out on. It’s two jobs, not one. I have a mind for ideas and story that is basically second to none, and I work hard to get the ideas and stories in front of the right people who can help me scale them.
CBY: With New America, you were releasing through ComiXology. With Indigo Children, you’ve come to an agreement with Image Comics for its publication. As your portfolio deepens, can you provide a bit of insight into how your process of working with publishers to match the titles you develop with appropriate homes for their release? To what degree is it contingent upon content, intended length of the story run, timing publication release schedules, etc.?
CP: It’s really a case-by-case thing, but Indigo Children made sense for Image because we were A) looking to do more stuff with Image and B) Image’s rich history and audience for this sort of material—books like Saga, East of West, even Department of Truth. These are books that have a shared audience with us and are easy to cross-pollinate.
CBY: We also talked a bit last time about how New America takes place in an alternate near future, independent from the timeline of your other work. Is Indigo Children similarly taking place in an independent narrative universe, or are there ties that bind it to Youth, Wyrd, The Forevers or your other titles in any manner? Intellectual property development and protecting your work with your collaborators also came up - has this notion of integrated narrative universe come into play for you from a real-world IP rights perspective as well when considering cross-branding and optioning stories for consideration of horizontal integration of your creative work alongside the intended vertical integration?
CP: Indigo Children takes place in its own universe, but I have ideas for other books and properties that will spin out of the main title if the demand and audience are there. You can follow the breadcrumbs through the first arc and see the skeleton of these if you pay attention. Wyrd and Youth were the two that were the most intended to crossover, because I think there was a common thread between the two of them. As we move forward there will be large shared universe stuff happening.
CBY: Last time we chatted, you mentioned enjoying 3 Worlds/3 Moons, the work of Deniz Camp and Ram V, as well as interest in working with Todd McFarlane, Nic Pizzolatto, and Matt Rosenberg (whose run on What’s the Furthest Place from Here? I’ve absolutely loved). It hasn’t been too long since then, but what else are you getting into that you’d like our readers to check out after they’ve given Indigo Children a read?
CP: 20th Century Men just wrapped up and was amazing. That’s Deniz again. I’ve been reading East of West for the first time and that book is tremendous. Eight Billion Genies is great—a high-concept that is executed so, so well. Rereading the Bendis/Bagley Ultimate Spider-Man and it’s still the high mark for the character in recent memory. I've also been watching Poker Face and I love the episodic structure.
CBY: Curt, thanks for making time to chat with Comic Book Yeti again! I'm excited to see where you take Indigo Children, and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for more of your work in the coming months!