Fugue States and Time Machines – An Interview with AARON LINDENTHALER & DON NGUYEN
It's another exciting CRYPTID-BITS with Aaron Lindenthaler and Don Nguyen here in the Yeti Cave to discuss RETRO #1. Time is running out on their KS, so it's a good thing Retro can travel back in time!
COMIC BOOK YETI: Aaron and Don, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave for CRYPTID-BITS. 10 (or so) questions about you and your project, and you are here to talk about Retro #1, now on Kickstarter until July 21st.
What is Retro all about?
AARON LINDENTHALER: Hey, Jimmy, the short elevator pitch is that Retro is a drifter who can’t remember anything except he’s haunted by a terrible crime involving a child abduction. He’s not sure if he’s the hero or villain and sets out to find out and he also has no clue how a device embedded in his forearm enables him to go back in time for short increments, but he uses it to kick some ass and solve the mystery. But it is also about what lengths a father would go to save his son.
CBY: Aaron, as I understand it this is your debut comic. You are both a screenwriter and an Emmy-nominated editor for Project Runway as well as an editor for several other television shows. Are there skills you developed as an editor that you think translate well into writing a comic script?
AL: Actually, yes. As a scripted editor, you are looking at which takes feel the most real and gives a pace and tone to the movie. As a reality editor, you are always thinking about story, story, story. How do these characters pop and tell the story and how will the audience understand and follow what is happening? I often keep my mother in mind while I edit. My mother is great, but when I was a kid she never understood those Far Side jokes and I ended up always explaining them to her. So I think, would my mother get this? LOL.
Also, an editor is a collaborator and that is key when working with a team. I know that each member has a valuable voice to help tell the story. So Don Nguyen did the pencils and ink, and Ellie Wright did the colors and Jerome Gagnon did the lettering.
And an editor has to be willing to go over the same footage, over and over, and keep grinding away at the story, again and again, until your eyes bleed. It’s a good lesson for writers to keep at it until the story is as close to perfect as you can get it.
CBY: Don, as both a comic book artist and storyboard artist, is your approach to projects different and if so, in what ways?
DON NGUYEN: I feel like storyboards most of the time aren’t a collaborative process for me. It’s primarily client work. Both share similarities in that you are seeking interesting angles to show the shot from and working to show a particular moment/scene. For boards, you’re confined to the frame, whereas for comics, you’re constrained by the page; yet in both, you seek to restructure how they’re viewed and imagined- in the hopes of surprising the audience and yourself. When it comes to comics, I really think of how the page/pages will turn out. I think of the beats and page turns: I think of pacing. In storyboards, I’m more concerned with capturing what’s necessary for the shot. I don’t really think beyond that unless it’s for tracking and logic.
CBY: Is there a comic (single issue, trade, or OGN) that made you feel the way you hope readers of Retro #1 will feel after reading it?
AL: In high school, I blazed through the Elf Quest series. I couldn’t get enough of it -- LOL. More recent examples of books that caught on big would be Y: The Last Man and Saga.
DN: I think Miller & Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One really comes to mind. You have the story of two guys trying to find their way in seedy Gotham. The heavy, thick blacks/chiaroscuro of Mazzucchelli’s work is really evocative of that noir feel. I mean, you think of Frank Miller with both his writing, artwork and the influence he’s had with the noir aesthetic in comics. His original Daredevil run – whew! I’m not saying RETRO is up in that echelon but if anyone remotely sees some elements, I’d color myself beyond proud.
CBY: Retro is not only a comic book but a live-action short with actor Reno Wilson. That sounds awesome. What’s the status of the live-action short and when will folks be able to see that?
AL: Thanks. We just started submitting it to festivals, mostly genre fests. We hope to hear something in a few months.
CBY: The remainder of the creative team is Ellie Wright (colorist) and Jérôme Gagnon (letterer). What are the strengths of your collaborators and, without spoiling anything, was there a page or panel that surprised you or that really loved how it turned out?
AL: They are doing such a great job. We are going for a look inspired by noir films -- dark alleys, briefcases and trench coats, voiceover, shadows and snow. There is a fight scene with Retro in a back alley, where we see him in the shadows and see the car’s headlights burn into the snowy night and we hear his inner dialogue, which is fashioned after the voiceover you hear in noir films.
DN: Almost a third of the book was actually finished by me as we were submitting for pitch and hadn’t assembled a team yet. For those that may not know, a pitch deck requires 6-10 pages of finished comic. I completed 11 of the 27. The joy of what Ellie and Jerome bring to the table as pros is the ability to match and improve upon what I did by myself (as I am no colorist or letterer). So much love to them both and an honor to have them on board.
CBY: If either of you awakened in a fugue state, do you think you’d have some innate knowledge as to whether you were the hero or the villain of the story? Also, what do you think would be the most likely cause that you awakened in a fugue state?
AL: Scary. I do believe there is an intuitive feeling we all have and I think that would enable us to know if we were more of the good or bad guy. But when you wake up you look around your surroundings for clues. I have loving boys who would likely be the trick to awakening me, especially if it was the weekend and they were hungry for pancakes :)
DN: I think the percentage of true villains in the world is very small. There are bad people who will sometimes do good deeds and decent people who make poor choices. Ultimately, I feel most people believe and hope there are good intentions behind their actions. That being said, if I woke up in a fugue state I’d hope to give myself the benefit of the doubt and cast a vote for being a hero. As to what caused the condition? I’m guessing blunt force trauma or too much fast food.
CBY: Time travel stories, or stories that have elements of time travel, are my favorite genre of stories. Whether it’s Back to the Future, LOST, or Primer, I’m a big fan. Do you have any particular favorites?
AL: Back to the Future and Primer are great! I’ve always been a huge Terry Gilliam fan and I think this story shares a lot with 12 Monkeys. I also love Terminator, Time Bandits, The Age of Adeline, About Time. I could go on – ha ha.
DN: Clearly y’all left out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III Turtles Back in Time, lol. I’d throw in Groundhog’s Day and a movie that really took inspo from it – Happy Death Day. The idea of, not only traveling through time, but being bound to specific point of time is also great.
CBY: What are the comics, books, tv shows, and movies that you are currently enjoying?
AL: For some reason I’m watching Fresh Off the Boat on Hulu – cracks me up and I think the writing is tight. Umbrella Academy. I also enjoyed a documentary about the making of the musical A Chorus Line. I also picked up the comic series Out of Order by Seol Young Lee and Mike Ahn – based on their life together and Mike coping with Schizophrenia.
DN: I feel like I stopped reading comics and now I just make them and read scripts, heh. Seriously, I’m over 20 short boxes behind. I might have a problem. I started Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Little Monsters and Pornsak Pichesote’s The Good Asian. Definitely recommend picking those up. Shout out to Mike & Seol’s book Out of Order. If you haven’t heard of it, you should definitely pick it up. Finished Obi-Wan and Barry, watching Only Murders in the Building & Hacks. Really enjoying those.
CBY: Tell me about any upcoming projects or friends’ projects that CBY readers should check out.
AL: My buddy Reno Wilson just got cast in a new show based on the film Fatal Attraction that will be shooting soon and eventually streaming on Parmount+, I’d also like to give a shout-out to Glenn Payne who made a film called Stagrassle Paranormal and is getting good reviews on Amazon Prime. There are also some Indie comics on Kickstarter that need love including: Viscarian Tales, Voodoo Nations, Pocus Hocus, Spectress and Sabanian, Superior Sam, etc.
DN: Those are definitely great picks from Aaron. If you look at our updates, we’ve link those comic book campaigns and a few others. If you haven’t read White Ash (Charlie Stickney, Connor Hughes and team) or the O.Z. (from David Pepose and Co.), I’d also recommend those. I’m waiting on Don Walker’s Dreadlock the Barbarian. David Byrne, Francesca Fantini and Joel Rodriguez are running a campaign for STAKE presents Jessamy right now – that’s a fun book. I drew a store-exclusive cover of the #1 for the Collective and got to read it. I’m working on Pablo the Gorilla #2 currently. Trying to get it finished before Q4. Working on a cover I don’t think I can talk about yet. Hope to do an art drop in the fall of an upcoming Marvel Upper Deck card sketch card set I drew in spring. I should have Battle Grapple Rebel, which I did with Michael Tanner (Junior Braves of the Apocalypse, Oni Press) and Dave Wheeler, out at SDCC and C2E2. If everything works out well, Aaron and I could be bringing Retro to Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon in September or maybe by Baltimore Comic-Con in October.
CBY: Where can you be found online?
AL: You can find me, Aaron Lindenthaler, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mrjumpcut/ and Twitter at https://twitter.com/mrjumpcut. I’d love to connect.
DN: I’m @Nguyening almost everywhere.
(4) Don Nguyen • SDCC HH-03 👁️ (@nguyeningit) / Twitter
Don Nguyen|Comic Book Artist (@nguyeningit) • Instagram photos and videos
CBY: Thank you so much, Aaron and Don, and good luck with the rest of the campaign.
AL: Thanks Jimmy – you rock!!!