For Lost Souls, They Found a Winning Combination – An Interview with EASTIN DEVERNA and SHAWN DALEY
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
The Kickstarter campaign for Lost Souls #1: The Trials of Casci Capricor went live on October 25, 2021 and had a great first day. Lost Souls sees the team behind Samurai Grandpa back at it again and both Eastin DeVerna and Shawn Daley braved the sometimes treacherous Yeti Cave to chat with Jimmy Gaspero.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Eastin and Shawn, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave and thank you for sending over the 12-page preview of Lost Souls: The Trials of Casci Capricor. First off, for anyone reading this that might not be familiar with you or your work, what are your comics origin stories? Were you avid readers as kids or casual fans? Why did you decide to make your own comics?
SHAWN DALEY: I actually didn’t grow up with comics, but I grew up with the characters via comic encyclopedias, games, cards, and the shows. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I picked up comics, and learned about them…mostly how hard they are to put down. I think lots of people desire to tell stories, whether in an artistic medium, day-to-day conversations, or even personal ways like photo albums or journals. I’ve had that storytelling itch since I was a kid, and after falling in love with comics, it seemed like the absolute best medium for my storytelling sensibilities.
EASTIN DEVERNA: There was this corner store/stationery store/smoke shop (at least that’s how I remember it, it seemed to sell a little bit of everything) called Jelly Bean, a town over. When I was younger, my brother, my neighbor, and I would ride our bikes there probably at least once a week and pick up whatever comic caught our eye. We never looked at numbering or considered things like continuity. We also would grab packs of Marvel Masterpiece and trade back and forth, not really trying to complete a set, but just looking for some of our favorite characters. I fell out of comics in high school and undergrad, but when going for my MFA, I was taking mostly short story or novel writing courses, though one semester there was a graphic novel course being taught by Scott Snyder (I didn’t know who he was at the time, it was right around the time of the New 52 launch). So I decided instead of taking another short fiction class, I’d change it up and go for this one — there was always a part of me that still loved comics, so why not? The course was amazing, and I learned a TON. I went on to be the first student to write a full graphic novel script for my thesis and have been writing comics since.
"Part of me hopes there might be more adventures out there after this, but what Shawn said really resonates with me as well. I try to make the most of the present and kind of leave whatever comes next up to the whims of fate and the universe." – Eastin Deverna
CBY: Lost Souls is inspired by “...stories like Dragon Ball, and old school JRPGs like Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire II, Final Fantasy VII, and Xenogears.” Are these things that you are both fans of and what is it about those types of stories that you were trying to capture with Lost Souls?
SD: In case it isn’t blatantly obvious, Dragon Ball (and Toriyama) has been one of my biggest influences. I grew up with Dragon Ball. It was the first manga I read, the first anime I watched, and the first card game I played back in the day. I began studying Toriyama’s storytelling, character design, and line work while I was drawing Samurai Grandpa, but I tried to step up that studying during Lost Souls. Final Fantasy is an all-time influential gaming franchise for me, and features one of my favourite artistic combos: Amano on art and Uematsu on music. I’m playing FFXIV right now, and pulled a lot on influence from the world of Eorzea!
ED: Similar to Shawn, anime on Toonami after school, and JRPGs on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were a BIG part of my childhood. There were some rocky times for my family growing up, to put it lightly, and I used these games and stories as an escape. I remember playing Shining Force II for the first time and just thinking about that game nonstop when I was in school—I couldn’t wait to get home and play it alone in my room and just forget about everything else. That game and the ones mentioned above were definitely a big influence on this book. I wanted to do something that carried some of the weight of the subject matter as those games: death, betrayal, attacking god, etc. but also incorporate some of the fun and wacky elements like a cooking contest with the best cat-chef in the afterlife, which you’ll see later in Lost Souls.
"World building is one of the most important things for a book like this! The reader is thrust into this strange afterlife with its own rules, species, cultures, and laws. It’s familiar, but vibrantly twisted and disoriented. In Dragon Ball, there was plenty of offbeat comedy mixed in with the epic martial arts fights. That was something I personally wanted to capture in Lost Souls." – Shawn Daley
CBY: It’s not a spoiler to say your main character, Casci Capricor, is murdered on page 3 and this comic follows her journey through the afterlife. With that as your starting point, was it a difficult task to make sure the story has stakes going forward?
SD: Well, and this may be a controversial opinion, but I’ve always felt there are fates worse than death. Feelings of incompletion and regret, for example. Losing pieces of ourselves, metaphorically. We can’t exactly control when our lives end, but we can try our best to make sure we’re content when we get there. It’s a scary thought to me, leaving this world unfulfilled. It’s a thought that drives me, and in no way a negative one! But these are thoughts Casci needs to assess, and those challenges make for some powerful character moments.
ED: Shawn hit the nail on the head with his response. It’s kind of more of an exploration of loss and regret, and finding the courage to move on after you’ve literally lost it all and the world (or the afterlife in this case) just keeps piling it on.
CBY: I’m fascinated by the prospect of Casci having to solve her own murder. Are you fans of murder mystery stories, generally, and, if so, any favorites?
SD: A couple years back, I saw Knives Out, and it was a riot. It had been a little while since I’d seen a solid murder mystery in theatres (even longer, these days) but it’s such an enthralling genre. You really need to exercise your planning and puzzle-solving muscles to write a murder mystery.
ED: I do enjoy good mysteries or murder mysteries. I think any story that’s well done does have an element of mystery to it — something to at least keep the reader interested in learning more. Knives Out, as Shawn mentioned, was great fun, and I just recently finished Only Murders In The Building, which I thought was very well done and had a good bit of dark humor and guessing along the way. While the mystery of Casci’s death is definitely there — it’s not the main focus of her journey, it’s a bit more of her having to learn how to deal with the fallout of this tragedy that’s befallen her.
SD: "I’ve had that storytelling itch since I was a kid, and after falling in love with comics, it seemed like the absolute best medium for my storytelling sensibilities."
CBY: I read that you two have been collaborating on different projects since at least 2016, but have never met in person. How did you two first start working together? Despite the wonders of modern technology, is it ever a pain to not be in the same room when working on comics together? Also, you both have story credit for Lost Souls, so how does your collaboration work in terms of breaking the story?
SD: The story, like the art, is a collaborative process with us. Though Eastin is definitely the idea-man of the duo! He’s always got these incredibly fun premises and characters, and an incredible imagination. Once I start drawing his scripts, I’ll request tweaks here and there based on my own storytelling and art sensibilities. Sometimes it’s small changes, and sometimes it’s entire scenes! It’s amazing working with someone so receptive and encouraging.
ED: Shawn and I first met on Twitter back in like 2014 maybe? I was a big fan of his art and he sent me early copies of TerraQuill ashcans. He mentioned he was open for work one day and I had the idea for Samurai Grandpa and reached out and pitched it to him. Luckily, he loved it and we started jamming from there. Shawn is such an incredible storyteller, writer, artist – you name it. Usually, whenever I send him a “final draft,” we come up with new ideas in the script stage, in pencils, and all the way up to lettering. He had the idea to beef up a certain section of Lost Souls just the other day and the story is so much stronger for it.
CBY: Shawn, I had backed and read The Bridgebuilder’s Creed, and that is a wonderful story and world you built and I very much appreciate your art style. Can you tell me your process for creating the art for your comics and how you developed your particular style?
SD: Thanks! It’s perhaps no surprise Lemire and Kindt were big influences on that book. I was reading their work heavily when I started drawing it, and though it took me almost four years to complete it, I tried not to change the art style too much during the process. That was hard, because my drawing had been refined a fair amount since I started the book, and some other stories I was drawing at the time looked much tighter and cleaner. But the loose, emotive brushwork in The Bridgebuilder’s Creed worked well with the mood and themes of the book. I learned a lot about style by reading and studying! The current style tries to blend the sharp angles of Toriyama’s later work with the washy looseness of some of my favourite European-inspired cartoonists.
ED: Bridgebuilder’s Creed is SO GOOD.
CBY: In reading the preview pages, I was struck by both the seriousness of what has happened to Casci and the whimsy of the Afterlife, especially Death. Skipper’s line, “It’s people’s obsession with her that bloats her ego,” is perfect. Is it important to you to strike and maintain a balance between the gravity of Casci’s quest and the world she finds herself in?
SD: Worldbuilding is one of the most important things for a book like this! The reader is thrust into this strange afterlife with its own rules, species, cultures, and laws. It’s familiar, but vibrantly twisted and disoriented. In Dragon Ball, there was plenty of offbeat comedy mixed in with the epic martial arts fights. That was something I personally wanted to capture in Lost Souls.
ED: I’m glad you liked that line! I really wanted to channel that balance between offbeat humor and the high-stakes, heavy subjects tackled in so many JRPGs I’ve played. I think Xenogears might be my all-time favorite and that game is HEAVY, but it is also so fun and vibrant and colorful at the same time, so I definitely pulled a lot of inspiration from that sort of storytelling and am hoping it’ll shine through.
ED: "I wanted to do something that carried some of the weight of the subject matter as those games: death, betrayal, attacking god, etc. but also incorporate some of the fun and wacky elements like a cooking contest with the best cat-chef in the afterlife, which you’ll see later in Lost Souls."
CBY: Have you discussed or planned out how long the series could continue with new protagonists for each book? Are there any concrete plans about who the next main character will be?
SD: We have indeed discussed just this, and we know who’ll be featured in the next installment. And in future installments, too. There’s an entire afterlife to explore, along with people who aren’t content with the way their lives unfolded or ended. There’s so much story we have left to tell.
ED: Oh yes! We have a lot of ideas on where we can take this, and with the world and setup we are working with, we can mix and match genres, blend them together — really kind of do whatever we want. So this first book has been a fun experiment in that sort of thing. We don’t have a set number of chapters, but they all will be stand-alone stories, but with some kind of connecting thread or another, so we can kind of make the series as long or as short we want. The next chapter will be very nautical, and I’ll leave it at that!
CBY: Heavy, existential question time since you’re writing a comic set in the Afterlife. Do you believe in an afterlife and, if so, what’s it like? I’ll go first. I’m about 76% sure there isn’t one, but if there is, I hope it’s like those Saturdays where I take my kids to the park and the library and we’re just sort of aimless and having fun. What do you think?
SD: I think the idea of an afterlife is incredibly fun to think about, but part of me hopes that we have only one life to live. That idea motivates me to make sure that I spend that one life as well as I can.
ED: I love your version of the afterlife, Jimmy. That would be amazing. I have had a lot of meandering thoughts on the subject ever since I was younger. Part of me hopes there might be more adventures out there after this, but what Shawn said really resonates with me as well. I try to make the most of the present and kind of leave whatever comes next up to the whims of fate and the universe.
CBY: Great answers. I really appreciate the honesty.
Which comic creators working today inspire you?
SD: Not to seem like too much of a sycophant, but Eastin DeVerna, Duane Murray, and Bob Salley. They’re all co-creators and friends, and our weekly conversations motivate me unlike anyone else out there can.
ED: Definitely my collaborators and peers. People like Shawn, Kay Baird, Grim Wilkins, Jade Zhang, Marcus Jiminez, Dan Buksa — some of the most creative and inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of working with—seeing the stellar level art and stories they produce makes me want to continuously better myself. Some other writers who I continue to read and really push me to be better are Scott Snyder and Joe Abercrombie.
CBY: If you were the curators for a comics museum, which 3 books each do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
SD: Watchmen, MAUS, and I Kill Giants.
ED: This is hard. Umm. A.D.: After Death, All Star Superman, Killing and Dying. I’ll probably change my mind like five minutes from now.
CBY: Great choices! A.D.: After Death is one of my all-time favorite comics. Do you have any projects coming up that CBY readers should check out?
SD: Yes! I can’t talk about them yet, but yes!
ED: Yep! Working on an anthology story with Shawn that is gonna be a ton of fun. A graphic novella with Marcus Jimenez, A. Guardian Volume II with Kay is in the works. And I’m also secretly working on a board game/book combo that will hopefully be able to talk more on in early 2022!
CBY: "Board game/book combo"? I can't wait to hear more about that. Where can you be found online?
SD: On Twitter @shawndaley and on Instagram @shawn_daley.
ED: Twitter: @eastindeverna and on Instagram at @epd85.
CBY: Thank you so much, Eastin and Shawn, and good luck with the rest of the Lost Souls campaign.