Updated: 4 days ago
COMIC BOOK YETI: Simon and Majory, thank you for sending over this beautiful book for coverage. How are you doing in your corner of the world?
SIMON BIRKS: I’m doing very well. I’ve enjoyed the summer in Scotland, and also got the chance to go to San Diego Comic Con for the first time.
CBY: Fantastic! I've still never been, even when I lived in Southern California. Regarding your comic; epic in scope, with a cosmic mythology built from the ground up, can you speak a bit to the origins of both the story and the visual vocabulary that formed around releasing the first issue of Seventh Sister? How did you two come to collaborate on this story together, and how early in the story process did you decide the visual approach?
SB: Seventh Sister was initially created in 2018 as an experiment to develop a comic where I could use my own photographs put through a filter to create a comic. I came up with the character of Soraya trapped in her house unable to leave, being stalked by a black hole. Whilst I liked the story, I quickly realised filtered photographs were not the way to go, and shelved the whole thing. Then, in 2022, I rewrote the comic using the same character and initial situation I’d created, but allowed the scope of the story to expand. Now I had no limits and my imagination really took off. I knew Majory through ‘Fishing Memories’ which Blue Fox published, and thought her art style would be perfect. Fortunately, she said yes!
MAJORY YOKOMIZO: Simon published a story called 'Fishing Memories' in 2020 with the script by Miguel Peres. He got to know my work through that. Later, he invited me to illustrate Seventh Sister, telling me that after seeing the pages of 'Fishing Memories,' he imagined his story with my style. I was thrilled with the invitation, as I love stories with fantasy and magic themes. In terms of visuals, he took special care with the characters, as each one was from a different nationality. However, he gave me a lot of freedom to choose their appearances. After a few sketches, he concluded that the main character should be Brazilian, just like me. I felt somehow represented. I believe that colors also play a significant role in creating a magical atmosphere.
CBY: That's true - color can convey an otherworldly quality while still permitting shading grounded in familiar lighting conventions, and you used this to fantastic effect. There’s clearly a presentation of cosmic scope, with characters operating on a celestial scale. Other times, they appear to interact on a smaller, terrestrial level with mortals. With one of Soraya's sisters being named Ennead, I presume the Enneads of Plotinus concerning the divine nature of soul were core to the philosophy behind the story (correct me if I've drawn a specious connection). What sort of mythologies came to mind most readily as you began developing the stories, and are there any relationships between gods and mortals from around the world that particularly resonated as points of reference?
SB: Thank you for highlighting such a great connection, and I wish I had known about it. The names of the characters were taken from the Wikipedia page which talks about the different names cultures from around the world have called the Seven Sisters constellation. This is a story based in the everyday of our lives, but involving celestial beings. It’s a story involving the best and worst of families. It’s a story showing friendship. I will now have to check out the philosophy you mentioned!
MY: I confess that I wasn't familiar with the mythology, but after a brief research, I realized it was about Greek mythology. We here in Brazil learn a lot about Greek art and mythology in History and Art classes. However, due to the vast amount of material, we often don't get to cover everything. I really enjoyed seeing how these potential influences are crucial in creating something as unique as Simon's Seventh Sister.
CBY: The idea of sacrifice is central to the conflict in Seventh Sister, so let's delve into the concept. Not to tie the story itself to biblical ontology, but the shame associated with unwilling sacrifice by Cain and the willing sacrifice of Abel before God comes to mind. With your all-consuming character, Bhilren, it appears no distinction between the two forms of sacrifice is made, as long as tribute is received. Without spoiling the story to come, can you discuss how this changes the stakes of the story and the relationship of those seeking to appease or avoid Bhilren?
MY: I think it's a much more complex issue; the characters show us so many sacrifices we make throughout our lives. Of course, I believe this sacrifice is metaphorical in the story. The character can be compared to the future; we don't know what lies ahead, but it's there waiting for us.
SB: I think Majory has made an excellent point. Bhilren is fate, and the reaction of the people around Soraya to it reflects different, sometimes selfish, approaches people take to it. Soraya is just reacting in the moment, confused as to her parents' decision. The support network that she thought was there disappears, and she is on her own.
CBY: Parenting, if done right and with full commitment, is an inherently selfless act by way of process. Clearly, Soraya doesn't have the benefit of loving, selfless parents. When crafting these characters and their submission to Bhilren, are they meant to be villainous or merely flawed? How did that factor into their visual design?
SB: They are flawed, but I guess our flaws portray us as villains to some people. Her parents have known about Bhilren’s coming for a long time, and have just accepted that Soraya will be the sacrifice. They don’t expect her to refuse. Their own selfishness has stopped them from understanding just who Soraya is.
MY: I see it as flaws; our parents, when we're children, we see them as our protectors and as the ones who would support us for who we are, but as we grow, we see/realize that they are human and have as many flaws as us, their children. They're doing the best they can, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good for the child. The relationship between a parent and a child is very complex when there's no emotional connection; it's something built over a lifetime, a bond. Now, when this connection hasn't been there for some reason, it becomes difficult to understand certain issues and cycles that repeat. In the end, we're all human, and we make mistakes. But in the child's life, if there's no paternal bond, it's a great lonely journey full of challenges.
The appearance of the characters, being "stars," with vibrant and luminous colors, slender faces, and a "hollow" gaze that gives a sense of arrogance. And the heads not connected to the bodies add even more strangeness to the characters.
CBY: Yes, trauma is certainly passed down through the ages, and the visual disconnection from human forms certainly helps convey the dispassion of Soraya's family. To further discuss the visual style, there's a beautiful storybook quality to the world not often seen within comics as a medium. What conversations took place around the design of the characters and settings, and what sort of iterations did you go through before landing the final versions seen in the book? There's a lot of diversity amongst Soraya's family, so could you tell us a bit about the choices that went into each character's ultimate appearance?
SB: As mentioned, I took the names of the sisters from the names that different cultures around the world called the stars, so felt it was sensible to assume the sisters would represent different cultures from Earth. I think Majory did an amazing job. The storybook quality comes from Majory’s amazing style, and was key in asking her to work with me on the book.
MY: Simon and I exchanged some messages about the universe and colors; he mentioned that the colors should be luminous and create a fantasy effect. Despite our discussions, he gave me the freedom to work on the pages, which is crucial for the artist to express in a more authentic way, establishing a connection with the story. Personally, I consume a lot of things related to the fantasy genre, and I find that Studio Ghibli's animations, for example, are an endless source of inspiration, both for creating the narrative and for the color palette. Characters are the primary means of conveying this feeling to the reader; they are the ones who, in a way, interpret all the drama. So, I focused on considering body language and facial expressions to convey what they feel, think, and transmit that to the reader.
CBY: Noting the earthly setting of Seventh Sister is the Scottish Highlands, can we expect to see other settings from Earth depicted later in the story, or do you plan on keeping things largely cosmic and otherworldly throughout the rest of the run?
SB: It will be a mixture of both - and even when we’re on other worlds, they’ll be encounters which will make it feel relatable. Making everything too cosmic will lose the quiet personal moments in the story. Soraya flees to the Highlands because it’s a place she’s always liked looking down on from space.
MY: I haven't read the entire script yet, but I believe Simon will delve further into the worlds; there's a lot of richness and layers within the story to be explored.
CBY: You've got a five-issue run planned. Can you tell us how much you had assembled before discussions with Fox Red Press began, and how that agreement to put out this title came together?
SB: The first two scripts are written, and when Marielle launched Fox Red I showed her the completed issue one and she loved the book. When I write I normally don’t plan the whole story out, but let it find its own feet as I write.
CBY: Given the world-building central to this Seventh Sister run, do you have other stories to tell within this world, or are you working on other unrelated projects you might want to share a bit about at this stage?
SB: Seventh Sister is linked to the Sinners/Hexes universe, but… spoilers! There are lots of ideas and parts of scripts I’m working on, none more so at the moment than Antarctica, from Top Cow and Image. It’s just been upgraded to an ongoing series, so I’m redrafting the next few issues right now.
MY: Currently, I'm working on another title for Fox Red, and it's truly amazing. All I can say is that it's a sea of magic and possibilities.
CBY: Congratulations are in order for your successful Kickstarter campaign! What are the plans for printing? You've got a beautifully colored publication coming out - do you have specific ideas around how you'll be printing it and with whom you'll undertake the production of physical copies of the debut issue?
SB: It’ll be a US size comic, and I believe Marielle has a printer in mind.
MY: I'm very happy with the campaign's outcome, and I can't wait for everyone to read it.
CBY: So apart from influences on Seventh Sister, what comics and other media are you most excited about? What other creators are inspiring you in your reading, viewing, and listening endeavors lately?
SB: I’m enjoying reading Ed Brubaker books at the moment. My favourite right now is Friday. I also enjoy Jeff Lemire, James Tynion IV, Charles Soule. For TV shows, I love Severance, Silo, Slow Horses and Strange New Worlds.
MY: I read a lot of European comics; one of my favorite contemporary artists is Locatelli; he has a very unique and inspiring style. Another artist who also inspires me is Filipe Andrade with his unique way of drawing the characters' body expressions, among others.
CBY: Thank you both for your contributions and thoughtful responses! If you have portfolio or social media links you’d like our readers to visit, please include them below.