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Time Travel is all about Control - An Interview with TOREN CHENAULT

It's the last few days of the Kickstarter campaign for Numinous Nomads #1 and we're lucky enough to have co-writer Toren Chenault in the Yeti Cave for some Cryptid-Bits. I love a good time travel story and so I was excited to hear all about this comic from an amazing creative team. This was a fantastic chat!

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Welcome to the Yeti Cave, Toren, for another Cryptid-Bits segment. There are only a few days left for folks to check out the Kickstarter campaign for Numinous Nomads #1. How have you been doing? How has the campaign been for Numinous Nomads?


Cover by Marco Roblin

TOREN CHENAULT: I’m doing pretty well, man, thanks for asking. It’s been a weird month or so for me. I actually got laid off from my job a few weeks ago (I worked in cannabis for a while) and that’s been a pain to get used to. I went from getting up everyday at 5am to staying up every night at 5am. I hate it, haha. But overall, I can’t complain, especially since our project got funded!


The campaign has been pretty smooth. We got funded faster than I thought we would so that was nice. It was nice to just chill and watch wrestling and MMA this weekend without worrying about getting funded. But we kept a great pace in this campaign. We got backers when we needed them and didn’t stay dead too often. My last campaign I ran didn’t fund, for a variety of reasons, but I was happy with the prep myself and the team did for this one. We promoted a lot and worked really hard on getting the word out.

CBY: Numinous Nomads is about a shadowy organization of billionaires that control time travel and a group of fighters trying to stop them. I am a huge fan of time travel stories. Can you talk to me about your idea of time travel for this and some of the things that have influenced Numinous Nomads?


TC: You said it in that first sentence as you described the book. Control. To me that’s what time travel is all about. Honestly, that’s what most compelling stories are about, but with time travel that element of control becomes so crucial to the story. And in Numinous Nomads, billionaires control every aspect of time travel. They’re the only ones who can afford it and understand it. A huge portion of the comic shows how that disparity has changed this world so drastically. Our main fighter, Ero, lives in the year time travel is created. And every week a group of billionaires sends bounty hunters to kill anyone who they think might be associated with time travel’s creation. Ero and his people have no control, zero. They’re forced to fight and survive but they don’t even know why. Our story sees them say enough is enough and try to get some of that control that the billionaires have.

Time travel is about information as well. In the sense that, if a society has figured out time travel, they’ve figured everything out right? Except, our main antagonist, our kingpin billionaire, Lucien, doesn't know the true secrets of time travel. A machine popped up one day and that was that. It’s his mission to find the source of time travel and harness all of its power, all of its secrets.


Looper is one of the huge things that inspired this comic. That story is all about the elite using their power too. Except we never actually see one of those wealthy criminals in that story. In ours, you get a front row seat to the man who has time traveled more than anyone. He is the one who has the most control. But at the same time, he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t understand time travel's true nature, and it gnaws at him. All that money he has can’t buy the truth..


CBY: The preview pages on the campaign page are intriguing. Your collaborators for this are co-writer Candace Rugg, illustrator Marco Roblin, and letterer Rob Jones. Talk to me about this incredible team and what you think each of them brings to Numinous Nomads that makes it work. What have you found are the advantages to co-writing, and are there challenges to that particular collaboration?

TC: This team is a dream team for me. We work together in so many ways and I’ll start with Rob. Letterers don’t get the love they deserve in comics. Rob is one of the best because of his efficiency but also his quality. He busts out a different style every time I work with him and it fits the comic every time. He lettered a 124-page anthology for me, and also a number of short comics, so I trust him. The letters he did on the first six pages of Numinous Nomads are brilliant.


Candace is a real-life friend so that makes our collaboration process a lot easier. We can flow in and out of conversation about stories and life without missing a beat. We used to work at a credit union together and would come up with all types of stories while people yelled at us about online banking. Having her as a co-writer has its advantages. I do the scripting mainly, she’ll provide any notes she might have as well. But her main role lies in helping to build the world, the plot, and characters. Most of our characters' personalities, their quirks, their motivations, that comes from her.


Co-writing does have its challenges though. You have to set your ego aside sometimes, and that can be difficult. She might have an idea that she thinks works and I’m like “I don’t know, man. Sounds lame,” and I have to convey that without coming off like a jerk. And you have to be comfortable challenging your co-writers. When you have a conviction about something, believe in something so deeply that you know the story can’t work without it? You need to speak up. Comics are already a collaborative effort, but co-writing, at least the way we do it, is even more so one.

I found Marco’s art on Deviant Art about four years ago. His art is sensational. One look at it and you’re reminded of people like Martin Simmonds or even Alex Maleev. I reached out to him at the end of 2021 and told him how much I loved his art and that I’d love to work together one day. The rest is history. We’ve been working on comics ever since. Numinous Nomads was built with his art in mind. I asked him what type of genre he wanted to work on and he said science-fiction. I said bet. It didn’t take long for me and Candace to cook up this world and he continues to add to it with his work. Overall, the team brings a nice mix of talent, experience, and enthusiasm to the project, which has made it super easy to work on.


CBY: Is there a comic (single issue, trade, or OGN) that made you feel the way you hope readers of Numinous Nomads will feel after reading it?


TC: Oh most definitely. VS by Ivan Brandon, Esad Ribic, and Nic Klein comes to mind immediately. That comic blew me away with its art the first time I read it. And I’ve wanted to create something similar ever since.


Grand Abyss Hotel by Marcos Prior and David Rubin is another. Marco’s work reminds me of David’s in a way. And in that comic, Rubin pushed the medium in such a fun way while still letting the comic’s serious themes of information control and capitalism shine through. I think Numinous Nomads’ art will be the same way.

Cover by Salomée LUCE-ANTOINETTE

CBY: What’s your comic creator origin story, meaning when did you first get into comics and what was it that made you want to create comics?


TC: I got into comics through superheroes, like most people. 90’s X-Men, Justice League, Static Shock, Batman the Animated Series, all that. I lived and breathed Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. I watched the Justice League cartoon with my Dad every Saturday night on Toonami as well. And I would read any comics I could find in my local library at the time.


Prose is my first love, creatively though. As I got into high school I was reading a lot less comics and more prose. Specifically older sci-fi novels from guys like Asimov, Heinlein, Card, you know, just ticking off all the racist old white writers. But I was reading more manga at the time than comics. I didn’t get back into comics heavy until the New 52. I fell in love with Scott Snyder’s Batman and Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing. But still at the time, I was just writing prose.


I started writing comics around 2018 or so. I self-published my first novel at the time as well. I love working on multiple things at once, haha. The comics were all terrible but I had to start somewhere. I also wanted to learn everything I could about comics so I started working at my LCS. I became an assistant manager pretty soon and was reading just about every comic that came out every week. From there, I met my homie Nick Couture and we started Black Hole Comics and Entertainment. It’s a little indie publisher that we started to give indie creators a place to showcase their work. We launched that in 2020 and I’ve edited and published a bunch of stories since then. And I’ve written and published five of my own comics so far as a writer, with more on the way.

CBY: I think a story like this really lends itself to social commentary, perhaps about income inequality, late-stage capitalism, hoarding of resources. Do you think about that aspect of a story when developing it and is that something you like to explore in your work?


TC: It’s funny because I pitched this idea to Marco and Candace as “the death of capitalism” so that’s about as late-stage as it gets. Yeah it’s something I think about all the time in my work. Oh no, does that make me woke? I’m a large Black man in the Midwest, my entire life is social commentary whether I want it to be or not. I struggle in life getting people to hear me. I struggle with it on the internet too. Everyone is always telling me I’m articulate and stuff like that but no one’s listening to what I’m saying. I’m not special in that regard, a lot of Black creators struggle with that. So yeah, I think about social commentary quite often in my work.


My art explores a lot of things. I love to play with genres and I love building tight plots and believable characters. But just about anything I’ve ever written is about something other than “things go boom.” And obviously not to say there’s nothing wrong with those stories, I just don’t usually write them, haha.


CBY: It looks like there are some amazing reward tiers for backing the Kickstarter, including a few different variant covers. Can you tell me about some of the things you are most excited to offer with this campaign?

TC: There’s a tier on there for a gold T-Shirt or hoodie. If you watch our Kickstarter video, you’ll see myself and Candace wearing one. They’re super comfy, the gold really pops, and I’m not offering them any other time than this campaign. If you’re reading this and haven’t backed, get a hoodie!


But I’m also excited to do our Malicious Edition of the comic. This same team did a four page crime comic to start the year. We did it as a little teaser of our talents before Numinous Nomads. One of the tiers is the main comic with that crime comic also in it. And it’s only a few dollars more and Marco made a cool red variant of our main cover for it.


CBY: Are there any other projects you are working on or that CBY readers should check out?


TC: Nothing I can talk about just yet. My publishing company, Black Hole, is going to be dropping some stories here soon though. We have some short stories and a few short comics coming out in the next couple of months. I can say that I did a comic with Josh Brunson late last year. It’s getting colored now but that’ll be the next thing people see from me. We did two last year titled The Last Black Astronaut and Trust Yourself. Shout out the homie Josh!


CBY: What are the comics, books, tv shows, and/or movies that you are currently enjoying?


TC: Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Matt Kindt’s work. I recently just caught up on his newest series Mind MGMT Bootleg and loved every bit of it. One of these days I’m going to write a spy story. But I also have been reading things like All Against All, 20th Century Men, Daredevil, and The Ends. We’re truly living in a great time for comics.

TV Show wise, I’ve been lost ever since Atlanta ended. It’s my favorite show and a huge inspiration for me. It ended perfectly though and I’m so happy we got to experience that show. But recently I’ve been rewatching Succession. One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Just rich white people freaking out about their rich lives. The episode where Conor freaks out over the bread makes me cackle every time I think about it. Can’t wait for season 4 in a few weeks.


Movie wise, I’ve been rewatching the Creed movies. Haven’t seen Creed III yet and am about halfway through the first one. It’s another safe space for me, I rewatch Creed about once a year, so it’s been nice going back to that world before seeing the new film. It looks amazing! CBY: Where can you be found online?


TC: I’m @ peacelovecomics on Twitter and @ toren55 on Instagram. If you want just the things I’m working on, Insta will be the place for that. Twitter is a mix of everything from my work to my thoughts on wrestling, politics, and what I’m reading.


Also Black Hole’s website is blackholeentertainmentco.com. Most of our stuff is free and you can dive into some awesome stories!


CBY: Toren, thank you so much for joining me and good luck with the last few days of the campaign.



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