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Greater than its parts, Nick Valente & James Sarandis sum up EYE, HAND, VOICE

James Sarandis and Nick Valente join Comic Book Yeti Interviews Editor, Andrew Irvin, to discuss their long-running webcomic, Eye, Hand, Voice. Check it out HERE!

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you both for joining us in the Yeti Cave, James & Nick. How is everything going today?



JAMES SARANDIS: Busy, but overall good.


NICK VALENTE: Doing well, and thanks for having us.



CBY: My pleasure! So let’s start with the origins of Eye, Hand, Voice - you’ve drawn upon public domain characters from the Golden Age of comics to assemble a super-powered detective agency in the form of The Peril Patrol. How did you initially learn about each of these characters, and where did the motivation to combine them in the resultant manner originate?


JS: In 2009, my future wife and I had moved from Buffalo NY to Newark NJ in the middle of the Great Recession and I was struggling to find work. I had recently fallen back in love with the medium of comics and figured if couldn't find a job I should at least try to pursue my dreams at the same time. Concurrently, I stumbled across the website, "Public Domain Superheroes" (pdsh.fandom.com) -- an absolutely wonderful website with a wealth of public domain and open source characters -- and found out about a short comic contest. Needing an idea fast I delved deeply into the site, and quite likely subconsciously inspired by The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer, the team came together.


NV: I had just started my freelance art career, and had worked on a couple of shorts together, before James approached me with the idea for Eye, Hand, Voice. I fell in love with it immediately, and was excited to pick up the art chores.


JS: Nick's art is so amazing and he is so passionate and easy to work with, I knew he needed to be the co-creator from then on out. Thankfully, he said yes.


The Peril Patrol angle was another serendipitous event. I like many was raised on copaganda so the idea of EHV being a offshoot of the police department was fine at first. That is no longer the case as I'm fully in the Defund Police and police accountability camp. So we needed an organization that worked outside of the police department that they could call on, like the fire department or EMS for weird shit, to save lives, but we needed a name. Thankfully on Twitter back when it was less of a hellscape, Kurt Busiek was lamenting the name Doom Patrol as a flawed name, we started chatting and one of us (probably him) came up with the name of Peril Patrol and I asked if we could use the name and he gave his blessing.



CBY: So that covers the fictitious team-up, but I’m curious about how the creative team got together. Eye, Hand, Voice has gone through a couple iterations before arriving at the existing format. How did you two meet, and how have you managed to include Dinko & Damir Kundalic in the illustration process, and Adam Wollet and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou on lettering? What precipitated bringing in Tee Lafrance as editor? It seems like you’ve built out a pretty broad team at this point.


JS: Before I met Nick I worked with Dinko and Damir on the first iteration of Eye, Hand, Voice for that contest I mentioned above. It didn't pan out, but I was hooked on making comics. I was given the excellent advice to go find other comic creators on the internet to make friends and short comics. In 2011, I had found my home to do that in the Millarworld forums. I was writing short scripts there -- 1-6 pages max of a superhero parody series called World's Worst -- and people seemed to like them. One of them (as he said above) was Nick and he drew one of my favorite WW scripts as well as another which was a darker post-apocalyptic superhero story. His style was jawdroppingly good, but even more importantly he could balance the gritty and the silly masterfully, and on top of that he was such a good guy, too. I couldn't believe my luck, but I still had to push my luck a bit further. I asked him to be my partner and co-creator for EHV and he accepted. The original plan was to use the Kundalic Bros. pages have them add a new splash page and then have Nick take over, but through a combination of being blown away by his art and growing as a writer, we changed the beginning and end, making the first Chapter you see today. Nick can tell you a bit how we met Adam.

NV: Thanks James, that means a lot. I remember getting along really well while working on WW. I also love his approach to writing. He knows how to give you the information you need as an artist, but also the room to then tell that story the way it works for you. That and the overall tone of his work, being more dark comedy from time to time with a more real world base where all of these absolutely crazy things happen, just fits my style as well. So when he asked if I would want to become a partner and not just an artist, I couldn’t say no!



Adam is another writer friend of mine, I have worked with over the years. He got into lettering to help balance the chores on the books he was writing. But people quickly started approaching him to letter their books too. I was one of those people, haha!


JS: That's something I truly admire about Adam, balancing the chores like that. Every creator should strive for that.


I was introduced to Hass's work by mutual friends singing his well-deserved praises. Not only is he masterful in writing and talking about the medium of comics but fully embraces lettering as the art it is, which can elevate the comic in ways that are truly underappreciated.


Tee and I met working for a indie comic company that had far more optimism than business sense. She is so smart and such a talented person, and I was so happy to be able to work with her as our editor.



CBY: Initially presenting the material in a black & white format, along with both the costume of the Voice, and the disembodied presence of the Eye and the Hand, there’s a definitive eerie, vintage horror aesthetic combined with a heavy tone of old noir stories coming across in the material. Beyond the origin comics of the characters back in the Golden Age, what other visual and narrative reference points have influenced the world you’ve built thus far in the story? Beyond the Golden Age, what else informs your approach to the medium?


JS: Going black and white was something I honestly wrestled with for a long time. I grew up with color comics save for Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes, but even those were scattered with color. We've even tried dabbling with color in the style of Sin City or the moody loveliness of Batman: Year One, but it never seemed to vibe. Thankfully I went back to my roots with the Mirage Comics TMNT which has gorgeous tones and my tastes expanded into manga like Akira, Immortal Rain, and manga-influenced series like Empowered and started to truly admire and appreciate the glory of tones.

NV: I have always loved black and white myself, as you can create some striking imagery that way. The tones are fun and can help add more depth to the scenes. I specifically aimed for a grittier style, where I could use hash marks to add some grit to the characters. I’m a huge fan of Tim Burton; Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, Batman, all of them. That was always a style I loved, as it was the perfect mix of grit and whimsical, gothic weirdness!


CBY: Not to delve into spoilers unduly, but can you speak a bit about the world-building mechanics of Eye, Hand, Voice? You’ve got a decades-deep history to the isolation of Sparta City - to what degree does this serve to provide a narrative sandbox to play in, and in what manner have you considered the broader ramifications of this phenomenon upon prospective plots of forthcoming stories?


JS: Sparta City was separated from its world and is now surrounded by wall of mist which connects it to an infinite and ever changing multiverse. The great thing about this is it gives us infinite variety in terms of villains, characters, and devices, but alternately, it gives us a city perennially on the edge. The people or things coming from the mist might provide you a resource that could make you wealthy and powerful, but it could take everything from you. That hopeful desperation is fertile soil to grow stories in and every chapter will be affected by it on some level.

NV: Artistically speaking, it leaves everything on the table. And that is a fun concept to work with as an artist. So when designing anything, or even just background characters, we can get as weird and wild as we want. I love that, its a blast to draw and very liberating for an artist!



CBY: On the note of the world-building exercise, this comic has been slowly growing in scope for the past decade. Do you have any ultimate goals for the overarching story to come to a conclusion? What can readers expect to see in coming years, and what are you two most excited about sharing next?



JS: In the next chapter we get to see some of what set Tim Brant on the path that led to him becoming the Voice as well as the path he is striving for. Expect to learn more about the characters and the stakes and action getting bigger and bigger (In particular, there are some Tokusatsu things I'm really looking forward to.)

NV: It will be cool for readers to learn more about some of the characters and more about their motivations. New characters, new settings within the city, and general shenanigans to ensue for sure!



CBY: Also, given the full creative control you have when utilizing public domain characters and self-publishing through an online medium, can you detail some lessons learned about steadily building the comic on a page-by-page basis, as opposed to dropping your installments as whole issues? What has it allowed you to do that print editions wouldn’t afford you, and if/when you consider a print publication, how has your idea of what it would contain informed by prior experiences?


NV: It’s allowed us to really hone into what we want EHV to be. We have been able to slowly mold it, and try new things along the way without getting bogged down. We have both grown so much professionally and personally and all of that informs the work to some extent. It certainly helped us get the feel we wanted and now we can continue to build on that.


JS: We are slowly working with the great folks at Zoop for a print edition of Chapter One. It's layout will a bit pragmatic for reasons I'll explain in a future question.



CBY: After speaking with Van Jensen on his Stardust anthology, and recently working on the Golden Domain zine (which, incidentally, includes a story featuring the Eye), public domain comic properties have been a recurring focus of my attention. Can you share with our readers any other public domain figures you enjoy? Would you consider including any in future Eye, Hand, Voice story arcs?



JS: Honestly, all of them, but that is a bit of a cop out answer. Golden Age characters have this very fun blend of experimentation since the field was so new and pragmatically trying to ape what was successful at the time. Two of my favorite heroes are examples of that. The first being Dan Garret, the first Blue Beetle by Fox Features. He started as a Green Hornet knock off in a blue suit, mask and fedora. He then transitioned to an insect-themed bulletproof suit, and finally due to the magic of science is granted flight and super-strength. The other was the Silver Streak, a nameless taxi driver who drove a cursed race car, gets wrecked by a giant insect and through a combo of a unique elixir, he gains flight and super speed. Despite the fantastic nature he still goes after rich bastards going after Black sharecroppers and trying to bust unions.

NV: That really is a tough one, there are so many to choose from. The Creature from Dimension 2-K-31 is a really interesting character that I think would fit in really well. I also like a bunch of the characters from well-known literary works, it would be cool to re-wrap some of them and incorporate them as well. Whether its Alice, Dorothy, Captain Nemo, all cool choices we could totally run wild with.


JS: I can definitely promise more Public Domain characters appearing in EHV, but most likely fewer than you might think.



CBY: One of the pitfalls, I think, of webcomics in particular, and long-form comics, is the narrative challenge posed by serialization and incremental evolution of the creative process. It can often be most easily seen through the artistic development and evolution of artists starting webcomics as untested amateurs and cultivating style, technique, and general skillfulness over decade-long runs that often end up becoming full-fledged livelihoods. Progressive, visible shifts in tone and focus can broaden the audience for a comic, but changes often leave some readers behind. Do you have an overarching, enclosed narrative for the plot of Eye, Hand, Voice, and if so, in what sort of timeline/page count would ideally be needed to complete the story? If not, how many serialized, encapsulated narratives do you currently have in mind to explore the world further?



JS: I have always felt that best stories have an end and as such EHV was built with one in mind. The thread running through the series is facing one's past, whether it is by embracing the person you were, or trying to become someone new and better.

NV: I agree. I like stories that have a definitive end, instead of endlessly meandering for the sake of existing. As an artist, it can be hard to keep a consistent look over such a long period of time. You are always growing and learning new things, better ways of telling stories or character acting and such. I have just tried to stay true to the main style but allow myself to grow within that realm.


JS: I can give you the approximate page count as we are aiming for 12 chapters and considering bumping to 24 pages, which means 260 pages in all, give or take. The timeline though is the tricky part which gets into some of the heart of comics in general. Comics are hard. Most of the most successful creators survive at the start by the generosity of their families and/or spouses, and many of the most successful comics are born out persistence, talent, skill, but equally and unfortunately, luck. There are so many comics I've seen which are amazing but either can't catch the attention of an audience or due to an illness of the creator are cut short. Nick and I have managed to create two chapters of EHV of which we are very proud, but we also have full time day jobs and are full time parents. We are hoping that offering a print edition of Chapter One, we can fund Chapter Three, and if that works use Chapter Two for Chapter Four and onward. That might seem a bit of a sour note, but I have a lot of hope for the comic community between crowdfunding sites like Zoop, collectives like the Cartoonist Cooperative, and fine comic journalism sites (of which I'd consider Comics Yeti a member). I think we have a long road ahead of us but we will win.



CBY: Thanks for counting us amongst the quality coverage of the industry! So, it’s my understanding that Eye, Hand, Voice is one of various pursuits, particularly for you, Nick - what other projects are you both working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

NV: I am working on a comic I created and will be bringing James in on, called Slayer BnB, which is a spoof story on Barney and Barbie-esque characters running amok in a universe of nostalgia (an intergalactic time traveling story with tons of the stuff we all grew up with). Other than that is working on growing my YouTube channel where I teach art techniques, mainly vector art for logos, branding and merchandise development, which comprises all of my work outside of the comics medium.


JS: Other than what Nick mentioned, I'm going to keep my other projects close to my chest for now. I have ADHD and presenting other projects before they are ready would spur me to try to spend energy I'd rather save for EHV and Slayer BnB, because my brain likes to betray me like that. However, updates on those projects will be available as they get closer to completion in our monthly free newsletter on our Patreon, or mailing list.



CBY: We’ve covered the myriad influences of Eye, Hand, Voice, but can you both let our readers know what other media you’ve been enjoying lately? What comics, films, books, music, etc. has been on rotation for you two when you’re not working on your own material?


NV: I’ve been looking at a lot of Chris Bachalo’s work, I’m also a huge fan of anything Greg Capullo draws. I love TV, anything action or comedy, and I tend to catch all the big shows.


JS: I adore the Hoopla app - a library app that is free with a library card. Libraries are such a wonderful resource. I am reading on there:


Love and Rockets

Mob Psycho 100

Saga

and Orcs!


And have read Clockstrikers and Henshin! from Saturday AM. And off the app the Midnighter GN and Witch Hat Aeliter.


I love watching movies with the kids (Spiderverse, TMNT: Mutant Madness, and Nimona so far this year), and Star Trek with my partner (all the series but Prodigy, which we haven't gotten into.)


Some video games like Minecraft and Homeworld Online. And finally, lots of Youtube.


CBY: James, Nick - thanks for joining us today! If you have any content or social media links you’d like our readers to check out, please include them below.


NV: Thank you so much for having us, it was a pleasure!


JS: Thank you so much, it's been an absolute pleasure.



You can support us monthly at Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/kalamitycomicslimited


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You can also find me on Bluesky: @jameslsarandis.bluesky.social


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