Exploring the Secrets of AREA 51 – An Interview with TREVOR FERNANDES-LENKIEWICZ
Comic Book Yeti contributor Cody welcomes Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz into the Yeti Cave to talk about Area 51: The Helix Project #1-5, currently on Kickstarter until July 23, 2022. There's still time to back the penultimate issue of this series or, if you need to catch up, get all 5!
COMIC BOOK YETI: Hello and welcome Trevor, thank you for stopping by the Yeti Cave to chat with us today. This is for a segment called Cryptid-Bits, where we ask questions about you and your current campaign for Area 51: The Helix Project #1-5, which is active on Kickstarter until July 23rd. How are things going as you near closer to the middle of your campaign?
TREVOR FERNANDES-LENKIEWICZ: It’s all bittersweet. Frankly, it’s been oddly difficult crossing the funding threshold on this one in a way that was, and really still is, surprising. Creatively, we’re firing on all cylinders, so I legitimately couldn’t be more excited to bring you all this issue. That’s where the sweet comes in to quell the bitter. I’m grateful to the folks that’ve been with us, helping to nurture this story from the ground up, and this fifth issue, I think, gives us the opportunity to really pay those contributions off. The team is hungry to cross the finish line of the story at a full sprint, and I think that we’re charting a way to accomplish that.
CBY: What started your journey with creating comics? I see that you were the former host of the DarkKnightNation on YouTube, and specialized in the breakdowns and analyzing storytelling of comic books on an editorial level. Would it be too far-fetched to say you were destined to tell stories? TFL: Destined? I’m not sure. I think that what I came to realize was that my efforts to really dig into the weeds of comics within my reviews were really just these closeted attempts to figure out how to do it myself. After having a few reviews in the tank, I remember the feeling that made me feel required to research the language and technical application of craft. It was almost addictive. Next thing I know, the itch to create became sort of insatiable.
CBY: What are some of the larger flaws and issues you find within storytelling when examining different comics? How are you honing your craft to avoid those when creating the stories that you want to tell?
TFL: Well, it’s pretty broad, but I don’t think that a lot of early comics writers quite understand the necessary pace that comics beg of them when playing in the format. Comics are an absolute beast to truly do right by, particularly given that you need a high level of specificity conveyed as exposition—not necessarily through text, but in the confluence of narration, dialogue, camera, and character expression. Every single panel, every single word, must be deliberate because you have such strict confines. Mind you, all of this has to be achieved while allowing the story to flow seamlessly.
I’ve found a lot of writers in their early stages with comics—both generally new to writing, or specifically to writing comics v.s. in other media—not taking note of media specificity in an all-inclusive way. For me, sharpening and learning my craft became the embrace of taking the terminology that I’d learned as a reviewer, learning how to apply it, then experimenting on how I can bend it in order to push myself as a storyteller.
CBY: This brings us to what we are here for, Area 51: The Helix Project. Thank you for the opportunity to read #1-4!! We begin with Kent dealing with horrific trauma for over a decade and painting a vivid picture of the crisis his mind is in. What drove you to put the protagonist through so much before giving us a sneak peek of what The Helix Project is possible for? TFL: Grateful that you took the time to read them! Really, my favorite stories are the ones that I can relate to most. Kent’s struggle is one that I think a lot of us face—coming to grips with who you are v.s. who the world is telling you to be. Identity is such a wide-reaching theme, in that we all struggle to find strength in who we are through the lens of culture, geography, social climate, government, sexuality, etc… I wanted to tell a story from someone who was practically already at the bottom because it gave him a high potential to grow, and further, to combat the forces in his world that try to stunt or diminish that growth.
CBY: This at its face value, as you explained in your Kickstarter, is a conspiracy story about the Government harvesting extraterrestrial DNA in efforts to create super soldiers, but at its core, it’s a story rooted in our failures and successes as people and what it takes to grow. How is that portrayed through the efforts of you and your creative team? TFL: Well, the story deconstructs—in a small way—the traditional understanding of a character like Clark Kent: Superman. The failure of humanity in this story is their primary inability to recognize the human ideals in a character like Roswell when he makes the choice to expose his alien physiology in order to save a young child. The sacrifice he made inherently embodies all of the things that I think most, if not all, societies would applaud in theory, but in practice, reject because of what he looks like. It’s all reflected in the young girl’s expression because in that moment, she sees him for his actions and nothing else. She’s unburdened by the social and cultural forces or dispositions at such a young age, and chooses to embrace him for his valor—so much so that, well, I’d encourage the folks at home to read issue #2 to learn more! CBY: Speaking of Creative Team, can you give us a breakdown of who is all involved with Area 51: The Helix Project. What influences did you draw on as a team when working on this comic?
TFL: For sure! This is a team of guys assembled in order to get the global perspective on identity. Not to mention, they’re pure talent. On pencils/inks for these last two issues is Nigerian powerhouse, Samuel Iwunze. Sam is unbelievably talented; not only in the way he understands how to create a striking image, but in how he’s able to push the storytelling into the forefront—these characters' actions, their emotions, and their thoughts. Sam also created the issue #5 A Cover from start to finish, and it’s already in the conversation as one of, if not my favorite cover in the series so far. For issues #1-4, I was fortunate to work with 20 year comics veteran, Marcelo Salaza, who’s based out of Brazil. I learned so much working with Marcelo, both in what we were capable of in the media, but how to be a better editor for the broader creative team! On colors is the incredible Marcio Freire, also Brazil-based. This man has such a phenomenal grasp on palette and how the execution of it through light values help curate the emotion and drama of the story. He also took a big swing and worked on the Issue #5 unlockable secret variant cover from start to finish, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Then we have Taylor Esposito, who was someone whose name is ubiquitous with comics lettering. He’s got the best resume of the whole team with a massive variety in content. I figured that bringing someone in with that level of perspective would allow us to embrace the stylistic elements of the Sci-Fi genre to its fullest. Finally, we have Adrian Bonilla (formerly Adrian Bone), who’s done the variant covers for every single issue of the series, including the new covers for the second editions for issues 1 & 2. His ability to capture story, theme, and symbolism in one singular image is astounding, and has been one of my favorite people to collaborate with.
CBY: Was there any difficulty in transitioning from Marcelo Salaza (#1-4) as your interior artist to Samuel Chukwuebuka Iwunze (#5-6)? I know Iwunze was a secret variant artist for #4, but did you find the creative process changing for you in any way when working with a new interior artist?
TFL: I very much have a yes & no answer. Was it difficult making a change? Yeah. I mean, Marcelo helped me see these characters for the first time, and I learned so much working with him. It wasn’t easy acknowledging that the series wasn’t going to have one singular look from start to finish either, but I also don’t regret making the change. Sam is not only wildly talented, but a great collaborator. He’s intuitive, and constantly makes visual decisions both big and small that distill the script into what I can call a perfect visual interpretation. When reviewing comics back in the day, I’d always speculated about how different the creative process would be between different projects & collaborators, but it was still a surprise when I came to live it for myself (somehow). CBY: I noticed Iwunze was on for #5-6, does that mean you have another issue in the works for Area 51: The Helix Project? TFL: Yeah! The series caps at six issues, with these last issues being slightly oversized regarding the page counts. This fifth chapter, which is currently on Kickstarter, really brings our story to a boiling point, and allows us to ask one final question of Kent and challenge everything he’s come to learn about himself over the course of this story. Issue six is his own personal inferno. Kent has to get elbow deep into this problem, and determine who he wants to be moving forward.
CBY: What social media platforms can our readers find you on?
TFL: Most major social media! Facebook & Instagram: @PocketWatchPress Twitter: @PWatchPress. However, you can find all of our socials and pertinent links here: https://linktr.ee/pocketwatchpress
CBY: Thank you so much once again for stopping by Trevor, I can’t wait to see your campaign fund so I can find out what happens next in Area 51: The Helix Project!
TFL: Thanks for having me! Always grateful to have someone give this story the time of day.