Comic Book Yeti Contributor Alex Breen recently corresponded with writer Jarred Luján & colorist Timothy C. Brown about issue one of their cyberpunk thriller, Southbound, to discuss their philosophy behind the story's action scenes, tips for writers on pitching stories to publishers, along with advice for aspiring comic colorists.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Jarred and Tim, thank you so much for joining me today. Looking through Southbound’s Kickstarter page and preview pages, in particular, I can already tell this is going to be a fun-as-hell comic! Can both of you describe your collaborative process with those initial pages? Especially in relation to Co-Creator/Artist Emiliano Correa?
JARRED LUJÁN: What we really wanted to capture in those early pages are some cyber-noir vibes as we kind of explore the character of Deo while setting up the setting of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as well as the kind of life that Deo lives.
TIMOTHY C. BROWN: Collaboratively, this has been very exciting. I’ve wanted to work with Jarred for a long time, and Emiliano has done such a great job designing interesting characters that highlight the best and worst parts of the world of Southbound. I’m thankful that they’ve set me up for success, doing amazing work in writing, and drawing while giving me the room to explore and show off the humour, grit, action and heart of our story.
CBY: Mentioning Cyberpunk 2077 and especially Smokin’ Aces as influences certainly caught my attention. Can readers expect a similar level of carnage in the action sequences of Southbound to Smokin’ Aces?
JL: God, yes. This is going to be a brutal, violent world. We work on building those emotional stakes because that’s really the heart of story, but trust me: if you want carnage, you’ll find yourself full by the end of the series.
TCB: This isn’t a story where everyone’s going to find that the secret was the power of love, friendship and ponies. You won’t have to wait for the action very long, and I know on my end at least, I’m excited to see just how far we can take things. Whenever I’ve run an idea by Jarred on my work as the colorist, he’s been 200% on board and hasn’t put any limits on me. We’re going to make this a good one.
"...I’m really interested in characters who are maybe not in the best place morally, but are trying. I also like blowing things up."
CBY: From your time working on the series so far, do either of you have a favorite character yet?
JL: Deo, the series protagonist, and Mocha, the series villain, are definitely my favorite characters to write and explore. There’s a deep dichotomy there of somebody who wants to better themselves and someone who wants to make the world as fucking terrible as they are.
TCB: My answer seems lame knowing Jarred’s, but Deo and Mocha. Deo is a fun protagonist, who you’re going to want more of. Jarred has a lot planned for him that I’m excited to put on the page, and into your hands. Mocha is [Error: REDACTED INFORMATION.] That’s all I can say about Mocha for now, but just you wait and see. You won’t be disappointed.
CBY: Jarred, for new readers of your work, how would you describe your style as a writer? Are there any recurring ideas/themes you’ve found in your work so far, and which comic of yours would you recommend people track down if this is their first time backing one of your comics?
JL: I like to think that existentialism is a major theme of my work: the struggle of existing, the intensity of our responsibility in the world, things like that. But, at the same time, I think I’m really interested in characters who are maybe not in the best place morally, but are trying. I also like blowing things up. That’s fun.
If you’ve never read a comic by me before and you’re prepping for Southbound, I think All the Devils are Here is the best prep work for this particular story. The velocity of action and the intensity of emotion that made that book so popular is carrying over to much of my creative choices in Southbound.
CBY: Tim, who are some of your major influences as a colorist?
TCB: That could be a very long discussion, but I’ll try to rein it in a little bit. Early into exploring the idea of being a colorist when I was a teenager, Edgar Delgado and Marte Gracia caught my eye with the interesting shapes and dynamic use of colour in their work. Over time, artists like David Curiel, Justin Ponsor and Tomeu Morey have hugely influenced my work. And of course, any colorist would be remiss in forgetting to take the time to study classical painters like Rembrandt. I’ve been studying a lot of Norman Rockwell’s work lately, and that’s definitely going to be a huge influence going forward.
CBY: Jarred, what was your approach to worldbuilding for this story?
JL: I’m Texas born, Texas-bred, and when I die, I’ll be Texas dead. This state is my home and I love it, but it’s hard to imagine a future that isn’t bleak here. So, when I’m sitting there trying to imagine different facets of what the future in Texas here looks like, there are plenty of big technological ones that are tainted with “Right, but how is Texas going to screw this up?” But that’s also what makes Texas so uniquely suited for cyberpunk stories: our future is bleak, it’s staring us in the face, but the people who can change it refuse to.
CBY: Tim, can you go describe your creative process? Were there any goals you had when coming up with the color scheme for Southbound?
TCB: Talking to Jarred before we got started, I had a basic idea of it but seeing how Emiliano has been drawing the pages, and using interesting textures in his lineart has really spurred me on to create something that I think people will love. I don’t want this to be a world without colour, but at the same time, I want it to feel gross, and grimey at times. I really want to explore a world that uses it’s bright and colourful neon lights to drown out the darkness that has built its way into the city.
CBY: Jarred, your bio within the campaign lists work for numerous publishers (DC, Mad Cave, A Wave Blue World, among others). Are there any general tips you provide for writers when they're first pitching to publishers?
JL: 1. Follow the instructions they give you. That’s the easiest way to get a rejection is to think you’re too cool for rules.
2. Use visual language. You want them to see what you see. You want them to get a taste of your vision.
3. CHARACTER FIRST. ALWAYS.
4. Read that contract, b. If it doesn’t work for you, walk, and make that dope shit anyway on Kickstarter or Zoop or whatever.
The truth of the matter is that while this is a creative venture, it is also a business venture. You deserve to get some of the cheddar. You don’t need to beg to make some dope shit, you can work that over on Kickstarter. Sometimes that’s the only way forward, especially if a company wants rights to a project they’ve contributed absolutely nothing towards. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, I’m saying it’ll be worth it. Especially if a few years down the line, you’ve got a hot ass idea that someone wants to adapt for big money and you’ve gotta go back and ask a publisher who did nothing to promote your work, nothing to help create the book, and didn’t pay you a goddamn dime if you’re allowed to.
5. Read number 4 again.
CBY: Tim, if you could pass along one piece of advice to aspiring colorists, what would it be?
TCB: I’ve had the same general ideas I’ve shared with a few people who’ve reached out to me in the last few years.
#1: Don’t do it. Quit. Get out while you still can! RUN! More jobs for me!
Ok, but ACTUALLY!
1. Don’t ONLY study comic colorists. Study traditional painting techniques, classical painters, whatever helps you expand your skill set. The more you learn, the stronger and more interesting your artistic voice will become.
2. Don’t focus too hard on copying specific artists. You’ll never be a better version of anyone else, but be the best version of yourself with every page. Nobody wants to hire Marte Gracia- Diet, or Alex Sinclair- Cherry for their book over the real deal. Show the world what makes your work special.
3. Do make sure you are having fun. If you’re making comics professionally or for fun with your friends, have fun. I’ve learned I have a habit of treating this like a math equation, and that kills it. Math is for hippies, go be cool and have fun making cool art.
4. Make friends. Find other people doing cool shit. Comics can be lonely, and we spend a lot of time in our heads. Jump in a group chat, go out and do things with people. It can take a toll on you if you let it. To make the best comics, you have to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
5. Get paid what you’re worth. Don’t undersell or devalue yourself.
CBY: What are some of your favorite cyberpunk stories across media?
JL: I recently read Snow Crash and LOVED it. I’m big into the hits like Akira and Ghost in the Shell as well. I think Gustaffo Vargas’ Pilcuyo was integral to me wanting to make a cyberpunk comic as well.
TCB: Maybe it’s cheating, but Cyberpunk: Edgerunners came out exactly at the right time for me. Its use of lighting and colour were amazing. The original Robocop movies are some personal favourites. My last one is maybe a little on the fence for being considered a cyberpunk story, but nobody can physically stop me from saying Cowboy Bebop.
CBY: Where can people find both of you on social media?
JL: I am @jarredlujan everywhere! And will attempt to remain that way as Twitter dies and we migrate to fifty new social medias a week!
CBY: Jarred, Tim, thank you so much for your time!
JL: Thank YOU!
TCB: Seriously, thank you!