Fresh from Heroes Con, Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen corresponded on the convention floor with Tyler Chin-Tanner, writer of The Orphan King & Mezo and publisher of A Wave Blue World, to spotlight five books from the AWBW's diverse line of titles from art books, music themed anthologies, & even undead Viking WW1 stories. Tyler brought his A-Game to this spontaneous interview that you could only find during a convention weekend.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Today I'm joined by Tyler Chin-Tanner, and we are going to be talking about A Wave Blue World and all their lovely comic books. Thank you for joining me, Tyler.
TYLER CHIN-TANNER: Yeah, thanks for interviewing me.
CBY: So, prior to recording, I challenged you to come up with a top five comics from your line and what have you got for me?
TCT: Well, it's tough because we've gone up to 30-something titles now, publishing other people's work, things that I've written, so I chose a couple from me, some from local people here in the Charlotte area. I'll start with my work here. The first one's The Orphan King. That's my foray into YA. It's inspired by King Arthur Legends, but I had a twist on it. I always thought the birthright was something worth analyzing or digging into a little bit deeper and why just because someone's parents, his lineage, he's given the crown, just shows back up and be like, "Look, I can pull this sword out of the stone and I get to be king," which has its place, but my thought was, what if he comes back and the kingdom has already been destroyed and nobody really cares whether he has a sword or who is father was? And he has to go on a journey and further growth as he wanders this land he was supposed to rule and really learn about the needs of the people and the conflicts that they go through and the challenges and become a man of the people first.
The Orphan King is a multipart series and this is the first volume. I'm working on the second one now. This is really when you see his training. He gets sent away, but then he comes back, and that's where the twist happens. His kingdom is no longer there. It's been a lot of fun to work on. I love the King Arthur Legends, read a number of books so there are a lot of nods to The Once and Future King, Mists of Avalon was one of my favorites, Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy.
I really enjoy doing my version of the things that I love and not just the same old King Arthur, which we've read, and instead of Arthur, this character's name is Kaidan, just so you know it's not exactly the same because I don't want people to get upset, like, Arthur has to have these certain things.
CBY: Yeah, like the "canon."
TCT: Yeah. And then the secondary character, Lady Taleissa, she's sort of an amalgamation of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. She's his aunt, and so she's the one who did the training and then she comes into play later, sort of like a mystical figure.
"...If I can't get people to care about this character in short bursts of scenes that really get to the point, maybe there's just too much fat there that needs to be cut away."
CBY: Excellent. Can you tell me a little bit about your collaborator here, James Boyle?
TCT: I met James when I was still at the Kubert School, just coming out. And the very first book I ever worked on and that A Wave Blue World ever published was called Adrenaline. It was sort of a spoof on the reality TV craze, a global Amazing Race-type thing, and we did that while we were in school. I still had a year left at the Kubert School. He was drawing it, I was doing scripts and some layouts. We did that, and then we took some time doing our own things. I was doing other A Wave Blue World stuff. He was doing a lot of illustrations. I knew I wanted to work with him again and when this idea popped into my head, I knew he'd be the perfect artist for it.
CBY: How would you say both of you have evolved since then?
TCT: So much. It's great because it's funny being in art school together and then doing our first published work together, and then just sort of stepping away where it's like, oh, we still follow each other on Instagram and supported each other's projects. You learn a certain amount of things in art school, and then you think you know everything. Then when you're out in the business actually doing it, you learn so much. With that first project, there were so many growing pains, and you need to just go out and spread your wings a little bit more and just learn all the things they don't teach you in school.
And so we both did that for a while and it was really interesting to come back together. I knew my process a little bit better, he knew his process. We figured out how to blend that a little bit better, where I knew his strengths better so I knew where to leave off and just be like, I'll do this part of the script and you take care of the storytelling that you're good at doing, more of the visual stuff. Yeah, it was a blast. He's taking this year off, he's in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Museum. He's doing a tarot deck collection based off of the Philadelphia monuments and things like that. And then we're going to come back together for volume two, and I'm super excited.
CBY: That's really exciting. Okay, what have we got next?
TCT: Mezo, another one that I'm just as jazzed about that I'm writing and working with artists Val Rodrigues, Josh Zingerman and a couple colorists as well, like Gab Contreras and Varga Tomi. This is a fantasy epic. I like to lead with this because it's a fantasy storyline, but it's based off of Mesoamerican history and lore. So, I've taken that, almost like how Game of Thrones was its own fantasy world, but it was based off of a lot of the British Saxon storyline. It's like, what if we use that? And I'm not trying to tell the history of exactly what happened, but if you took that and made it its own world, and so we have these different civilizations within this Mesoamerican world.
And the adventure starts when one of the tribes gains dominance. They grow, they build an empire and they decide that their God has predestined them to take over all of the land and conquer the other tribes to worship their emperor and their God. So they set out on this conquest and all the other tribes have been on their own, doing their own thing. They've had their own rivalries or splits or things like that, and now they have to come together. And you learn Kyma, whose parents are from two different tribes and no longer get along, all of a sudden she needs to bring these people together and be like the only way they’re going to stand up against the Tzalekuhl, this empire, is if we all come together and do that.
Meanwhile, we learn a lot more about Tzalekuhl and what happened with them and how their home was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, which is part of the Mayan history that I took from, and how many of them were orphaned. And they're dealing with their own trauma, so you get some sympathy for some of these characters like Phegor, or like the big guy, (Points to a page) this guy who shows up. Yeah, this dude, scary ... and Roden, all the guys in the armor, those are the Tzalekuhl.
Some of them are sympathetic characters, not so much the emperor, who's doing it all for his own personal gain. But many characters, those you see from the covers, lots of story arcs going on, mixing together. It's a big story, and we're in the middle of volume two. I think it's going to be five volumes. I'm really digging into these long volume things, but it's been fun developing them, and people have been really enjoying it and coming back for volume two and excited to see where it goes, so it's just been a blast.
CBY: That's excellent. You're giving me a lot to follow up with. You're talking about balancing a lot of different characters' individual stories within this. Do you have a tried and true method that works for you? Balancing all those plates with a medium that has a limited page count per book. That has to be a lot to juggle.
TCT: Well, it is good to put constraints on yourself, which is why I've been doing the five-issue arcs. Each issue is 24 pages and some people are like, "Well, that's very rigid and forcing yourself to do a certain page count or whatever," but it's like, yeah, I kind of need it. If not, I could just take one character's storyline and just go on forever. But no, it makes me edit it down and be like, if I can't get people to care about this character in short bursts of scenes that really get to the point, maybe there's just too much fat there that needs to be cut away. And what can I do in an action scene, with movement and development, that makes you understand who this character is, what their motivation is, what the conflict is, what they're after, that kind of thing, and just have them all tied together?
As you're learning about one character, that's connecting to some other character, and you learn they have a past together and things like that. I have a binder for all the different characters. I have dividers for the characters and then their backstory, their motivation, the words they use. All this stuff is getting mapped out and then I have to make sure too much of that stuff gets in the script because it'll just be too heavy. That's just for me writing the characters and writing the story, but I got to keep it light and keep it moving. But knowing all that stuff and keeping it organized really helps.
CBY: That's a wonderful case of art thriving upon restriction. And how about your collaborators for Mezo? In this case, Josh Zingerman?
TCT: Okay, Josh, is a similar story to James, but we actually went to the same art school, the Kubert School. I knew I wanted to work with him. He was a couple of years behind me when he graduated. We met, we had lunch in New York City and talked about what we wanted to work on. And I pitched this idea of a fantasy, like, "Oh, I'd like to do this big fantasy." I knew his art style lent itself to that, and he said, "I would love to do something based off of Mayan-Aztec history. I'd love to design characters like that." And then my eyes just lit up. I was like, "That is an amazing idea. I love it." I got the books, I started doing research. He started drawing characters and designs. Sometimes I would write a character and he would draw them. Sometimes he would draw a character and I would just come up with a story for them.
CBY: So, very symbiotic?
TCT: Yeah. Now he got an awesome storyboarding job two issues into this one and he's been working on Star Wars animation and things like that.
CBY: Good for him.
TCT: Yeah, which is amazing. He created these characters with me and did the first two issues, but then we got Val Rodrigues to take over, and he's picked up since number three of volume one. And he's finished volume two now and so he's really sort of taken over and made it his own, just two incredible artists to work with.
CBY: Is Val the planned artist going forward into the, you said five volumes that you're planning?
"And that album... was 10 tracks. For each one of those tracks they commissioned an artist to tell a short story that ties in with, or fits the theme of that song."
TCT: Yeah. Well, he's in volume three now. And I just said, "Let's just take each volume as they go. I would love for you to stick for the five, but I know that as an artist, it can be, it's a lot of work." I'll just ask him again, volume four, volume five. And then I don't know if Josh will ever want to do something again. I would love to have him back, maybe with a separate storyline or something just so we can keep the consistency of Val since he did take over from fairly early on.
CBY: That'd be a fun callback.
TCT: Yeah, for sure. And Josh has done some covers along the way too.
CBY: So. What have we got next?
TCT: Okay, we're going to move off of my work and go with some local projects to Charlotte Heroes Con. The first is Jack the Radio Creatures. Now Jack the Radio is a band from here in North Carolina. They put out an album in 2020 called Creatures. And that album, I think, was 10 tracks. For each one of those tracks, they commissioned an artist to tell a short story that ties in with, or fits the theme of that song. So, it's an anthology comic book and each song title has a story to go with it.
CBY: (Looking through the pages) Are those some fake ads?
TCT: Yeah, there are some fake ads. The song Don't Count Me Out is one. Creatures, the self-titled one, We're All Right. They all have a story. This one's by Alexis Ziritt, a few different artists. George Hage from the band wrote them all, and then yeah, he did some fun stuff, like put some old-timey ads in there.
Oh, and there's Tommy Lee Edwards' art, which is just amazing.
CBY: Alexis Ziritt and Tommy Lee Edwards, amongst others.
TCT: Yeah. Yeah, put some fake ads in there, some sketches that we like to do. It was just a really fun project. Love the band. Their music is really good so I've really gotten into them. We got an interview with them in there as well. And George is in artist alley here as well, and he's got these with him.
CBY: Yeah, I'll have to take a PDF for the eventual article of this because that art is just lovely, has a nice zine quality to the presentation, which I think fits really well for the material. And especially, that cover is just gorgeous.
TCT: Yeah, beautiful. I'm sure it says who did the cover.
CBY: And that's just a lovely blending of music and comics. I actually ended up talking to someone else who was doing a mash-up in a different way, but it's really interesting to see all the different ways that music and comics can come together. Because both have a rhythm in a sense.
TCT: I definitely think there's a connection there. Now, obviously, there's no auditory element to comics, unless you make a playlist to play separately or something. But yeah, there's something about the imagery of the storytelling, absolutely I think fits great with comics.
CBY: Well said.
TCT: All right, the next one is an art book. It's called The Kids Stick Together. It's the art of Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi, also here at the show and local to the area. This is a collection of their best illustrations, comic book pages and covers that they've done in the industry, working for DC Comics, Image Comics. You've got Batman in here, Static Shock, Loose Ends, their own story that they did through Image.
It's got process work. You can see a lot of their thumbnails, the early pencil stages, things like that, just a real deep dive into their work, how they work together, getting a line artist and a colorist, how they collaborate, it's just really neat. If you're just a fan of great artwork and how it's created, and of these guys, it's just a really neat book, oversized hardcover, get to see this stuff printed in really nice paper. And it was a lot of fun to do.
CBY: This is one of these cases where obviously we're talking in an audio setting, but if you flip through this book, it more than sells itself. The art speaks for itself. If you're ever curious how the sausage gets made, this is a great visual look at that type of process. But I would agree, that's an excellent book.
TCT: Yeah. I really enjoyed it.
TCT: All right, we're going to end on Bloody Hel, which came out at the end of 2021, a really awesome project. Clayton McCormack brought this to me, and he wrote and illustrated it, and worked with a colorist, Russell Badgett.
Vikings and World War I, this foot soldier in the British infantry accidentally unleashes buried Viking Gods, like an explosion of the landmine or whatever. Anderson is the soldier, and all of a sudden they come pop out. And it's World War I, the trenches, the barbed wire, and all of a sudden here comes the Viking Gods.
But yeah, they've been cursed by Loki so you have that recognizable character, not the Marvel Loki (laughs). And yeah, here they are in World War I, and so Anderson is trying to convince them, rather than just plunder this world as they've used to doing, to actually help out. And there's a real human element, a look at war, not just the horrors of it, but how people can come together and hope to triumph through it all. Just an absolutely gorgeous book.
CBY: Honestly, the coloring is jaw-dropping.
"I think we're over 30. I lost track, but we've published so many anthologies. I think we've done close to 10 anthologies now. And we've published some other creator-owned work and a couple of other art books and stuff. So yeah, I think we're right around 30 now, which is a lot to bring to a show. And obviously, we need a bigger booth now."
TCT: Yeah. Russell really had his contribution to this. Clayton's obviously story and line art, but yeah, the color just lifts it to another level.
CBY: It's a gorgeous book on the line art like you said, but yeah, you're right. But some of these pages, like the auras of greens and oranges, it's fantastic.
TCT: Yeah. So, that's my five.
CBY: Thank you so much for this top five. And clearly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as A Wave Blue World is concerned. How many books did you say you guys have?
TCT: I think we're over 30. I lost track, but we've published so many anthologies. I think we've done close to 10 anthologies now.
And we've published some other creator-owned work and a couple of other art books and stuff. So yeah, I think we're right around 30 now, which is a lot to bring to a show. And obviously, we need a bigger booth now.
CBY: Absolutely. What other cons will you guys be going to this year?
TCT: I'm not going to do another one until Baltimore. I'm still really keeping the number of cons down, with the pandemic and everything. Heroes Con and Baltimore, just two of my favorites. I'm able to drive. I'm not going to fly yet, so yeah, it won't be until Baltimore in mid-October, yeah.
CBY: Excellent. And for anyone who doesn't see you at a show, where are the best ways to support A Wave Blue World?
TCT: AWBW.com, just four letters .com is our website. All our books are available there. I send them out myself. You pack them well and ship them right to you. And then you can follow us on social media, A Wave Blue World, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We're around.
CBY: Excellent. My last thing I usually ask is social media handles anyway, so you pretty much just hooked me up with that.
TCT: I know how to jump right in with that.
CBY: Finally, just something I'm curious about, if you can't say anything outright, I understand, but are there any teases you can give for future projects as far as genres that you're aiming for?
TCT: Well, in two weeks, we have the release of Young Men In Love, which is our latest anthology. It's a queer romance, non-erotica. You never know who accepts what in their library or books or whatever, but it's a teen-appropriate romance novel, just happens to focus around queer male romances. And that's coming out in two weeks, so that's no secret.
And then in the fall, we have Crash & Troy, a series that's launching. Jarred Luján and Kyler Clodfelter are doing, it's like a space mercenary buddy, not cop, because they're mercenaries, but like buddy comedy adventure thing that's a lot of fun. The first issue comes out in August so look for that.
CBY: That's excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time, Tyler. I really appreciate it.
TCT: Thank you. Appreciate you.