Interview Content Editor Jimmy Gaspero disabled the Faraday Cage that normally surrounds the Yeti Cave so he could interview Marcus Jimenez and Travis B. Hill about TechnoKnights, their cool-looking homage to Power Rangers and TMNT. So strap in and grab a slice of your favorite pizza as they cover a lot of ground in this interview. It's Techno Time! (still workshopping that catchphrase).
COMIC BOOK YETI: Travis and Marcus, please come in and make yourself at home in the Yeti Cave. I’m excited to talk about Dauntless Stories’ TechnoKnights, but first, how are you both doing?
MARCUS JIMENEZ: I am doing well, staying busy and staying creative.
TRAVIS HILL: I’m good, just busy. Trying to juggle comics, a full time job, and school can get tricky sometimes. Especially when you’re married.
CBY: Tell me what TechnoKnights is all about and how did the two of you connect for this story?
MJ: Travis and I connected very early on, before I had even announced Dauntless. We had talked about collabing and Travis had pitched this other superhero story to me that seemed very awesome. But I had this idea that was rumbling in my head for a long time about what happens when the power rangers hit adulthood, how does that affect them? When Travis heard that this idea was swirling in my head, he revealed that he had a similar idea and from there the TechnoKnights were born!
TH: Yeah, Marcus originally reached out to me because he was thinking about putting a comics magazine together for Dauntless, and asked if I’d like to write a story and he would do the art. I hadn’t had too much interaction with Marcus at this point, so I was really humbled that he contacted me to write for him in the first place. That he trusted me with that, you know? So I was in right away. I wrote up an 8-page script about a character I called Dolphin-Lad. Basically a Spider-Man type character. Later on Marcus and I were on the phone going over some edits to that script when he mentioned he had also always wanted to do a super sentai type story where the characters had now grown up, and were reflecting on their time in that life, and I was like “Marcus, you’re not going to believe this, but I’ve been sitting on this exact type of story for a while now.” So I pitched him the story right then and there and, I kid you not, we spent the next 3 hours on the phone hashing it all out. By the end of the conversation Marcus was like, “Okay, I’m sorry, we are scrapping Dolphin-Lad and running with TechnoKnights.” And I was all-in.
CBY: TechnoKnights is inspired by Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I wanted to know what is it specifically about those 2 things that you really wanted to capture and make your own for this, be it replicating the reading experience for your readers, themes, aesthetic, or something else?
MJ: As a kid, Power Rangers was EVERYTHING to me. I was completely obsessed, and still am. I have the replicas of the original red and white ranger helmets in my office. I think for me it had the same appeal that Spider-Man had in the 60s. Where often these were teenagers or young adults that were the superheroes and still had to go to school and do everything I was doing as kid if not more. So for my approach into this world especially in the opening chapter I wanted it to feel like a spectacle. Like we were walking into the series finale of the TechnoKnights and they are finally defeating the big bad. Then when you hit the rest of the book, we examine how do they move forward from here?
TH: When it came to TV shows, Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles raised me as a kid. I was there DAY ONE on Saturday morning for the first Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode. When that theme song dropped I was running around the living room fighting imaginary putties and everything. As for Ninja Turtles, that’s always been deeper for me in many ways, one of which is their bond as brothers. I have 3 brothers and oddly enough our personalities match up well with each of the different Turtles, so the brotherly bond of the Ninja Turtles has always drawn me to that franchise even from a young age. So for TechnoKnights, it’s as much of a love letter to my brothers as it is to my love for the Ninja Turtles. I really try to capture the relationship I have with my brothers in the relationships between Archie, Tesi, Theo, and Heron – the four TechnoKnights. Beyond that, with TechnoKnights, I really wanted to examine this genre that I grew up with where teenage characters – be it Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers – are recruited into some eternal war that they might not really want to be a part of. How would they think differently about their childhood once they’ve grown up and had time to reflect on that time in their life? How would it affect the type of people they become? TechnoKnights is a comic that examines those questions.
CBY: Just taking a shot in the dark here, Travis, are you the Raphael among your siblings?
TH: Haha, good question. I'm definitely Leonardo.
CBY: There is a special limited edition hardcover with cover art by Simone Ragazzoni, who has worked on Power Rangers Universe, how did he become involved in the project and what parameters was he given to create the special edition cover?
MJ: I have been collecting almost all the runs of the power rangers comics. I think what sets them apart is that they get to go into much more detail and locations then the original show, that allows them to feel like greater heroes to me. Simone had started with the Phantom Ranger issue in the Power Rangers Universe book and his art immediately stood out to me.
From there, like any other book all it took was a leap of faith that the pitch Travis and I put together was enough to get him to sign up, and it was! Like every other cover artist, I try to set minimal parameters. I said we would like it to include the four brothers if you could, maybe add in the villain, but ultimately Simone had full autonomy to make whatever he wanted.
CBY: How did your collaboration work for this, did you break the story together? Travis, were things tightly scripted with this or was there room in your script for Marcus to let loose at times?
TH: I’ve written in many different script styles but the one I favor the most is a loose script when it comes to art direction. I don’t like to tell the artist how many panels need to be on the page and what needs to be in each panel, unless I think it is absolutely necessary. So what I did for Marcus, and what I usually do, was write a series of “we see” statements for each page so that Marcus knows what needs to be on the page and then he can decide how he wants to show that on the page and with how many panels. Also, I am terrible at writing action sequences, so I talked each of those out with Marcus before actually writing them to think through how it should be paced and how many pages should be allotted for the sequence. And of course I am always open to Marcus needing to make any changes. Like with the 8-page fight sequence we are previewing with the book. That’s the opening scene to the book, and it was originally written as a 5-page scene. But Marcus was like “Hey, I need to make this a bigger fight, so it will be more than 5 pages.” I had no problem with that. It ended up being 8 pages, and then I went in and rewrote and added to the dialogue to make it fit. It also helps that Marcus is also the publisher so when he says he needs more pages we get more pages.
CBY: Speaking of the preview pages on Dauntless’ website, Marcus, I love the art. Can you take me through how you create your art, which tools you use, and particularly how do you create the effects from the first preview page? The light streams/bursts of light are awesome and give such an added element of movement to the scene.
MJ: Thank you, honestly I think it is some of my best work yet. Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted it to feel like a spectacle, and one of the biggest influences on TechnoKnights is Tron Legacy. So in my head when they move, or when they fight, it has to have this trace residue of that digital world their powers and villains come from. So often it is using light and chromatic aberration to show off these powers. I think the chromatic aberration adds this old school 3D effect like you used to get from those paper 3D glasses. That reminds me of video games where you turn red or another color when you get damaged. So every hit or action has that effect that I am hoping elicits that reaction in your head.
CBY: It looks so cool. Travis, what’s your approach to coming up with technobabble, or maybe these are actual terms and I have no idea because I am old, but there’s “Altera Converter”, “Saiphix”, “Anaximander”. Do you have a tried and true method for naming things?
TH: As readers will learn, the mythology behind the TechnoKnights is this eternal struggle with the Kakotach who are from a purely digital/cyber realm of existence. Anaximander, the leader of the Kakotech, wants to take over the physical realm, the Earth in this case, and to do so, he has to create a tether to this realm of existence. With that in mind, when it came to naming things, I looked for terms related to data scrambling and data stabilizing and then tried to riff off of those terms to come up with names of things in the book.
As for the names of characters, I always enjoyed how the Ninja Turtles were named after famous artists of the Italian Renaissance, so here I took a page out of their playbook. Readers of TechnoKnights will learn that they too are an ancient order sworn to defend the Earth from the Kakotech, and in doing so, they have always been able to tap into the power of the digital/cyber realm to create advanced weaponry and technology to battle their cyber foes. So I named our main characters – Archimedes, Tesibius, Heron, Theodorus, Sostratus, Anaximander – after ancient Greek inventors.
CBY: I love that! There are a couple of moments of comedic banter among the brothers and I want to know from both of you, how would you describe your sense of humor and what really makes you laugh?
MJ: For me; I find my humor in a lot of irony, or in very dumb gags, so I am not always the best when it comes to writing witty banter, but Travis is great at it!
TH: Witty banter consumes my life. Constant ragging and ribbing and crackin’ has been central to communication with my brothers and the majority of my friend groups. Everybody always trying to get the best joke off on someone else in the group. Plus, I watch shows like The League and Workaholics on repeat constantly, specifically for the banter between best friends. So I channel a lot of that into my writing, not just in TechnoKnights, but in all my books. I’m also a big fan of observational comedy. Seinfeld is another go-to comedy show of mine. And Nate Bargatze is one of my favorite comedians right now, who is great at observational comedy.
CBY: NATE BARGATZE IS THE BEST! I recommend his 2 Netflix specials to everyone. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the comic is lettered by Toben Racicot, one of my favorite letterers, but what made Toben the right person to letter this story?
MJ: Let it be known, Toben is always the right person to letter a story. He takes pride in every project he works on and it shows through the page.
CBY: I don’t follow the NBA, but, Travis, anyone that follows you on Twitter knows that you do. What’s something I can say next time all my friends are talking about the Sixers so I sound smart and like I know something about the current team?
TH: Ha! Yes, basketball is my first love. I actually played in college and then one year of professional basketball before a tumor ended my career and forced me to get hip replacement surgery. That’s another story for another time. But that’s why you see so much basketball on my Twitter, and very little of any other sport.
As for the Sixers, they’ve got this year’s MVP front runner in Joel Embiid, and they’ve got a young rising star in Tyrese Maxey – that kid is going to be special in the NBA. The question for them in the playoffs is what type of energy will James Harden bring in each game. They traded for him mid-season to have a real shot at a title, but the last month of the regular season he looked disinterested on the court. And he’s got a reputation for choking in the playoffs. So if he brings that disinterest into the first round, they could get upset by a young, scrappy Toronto Raptors team.
CBY: What comics/books/tv shows/movies are you currently enjoying?
MJ: Way too much reality tv. But as for books, I am writing a lot of fantasy and also a spy comic so I have been reading/listening to Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz, and the Six of Crows Duology. As for comics, Radiant Black, Nightwing, Reckless, and a ton of good Kickstarter books.
TH: Let’s see, tv shows I’m watching Abbott Elementary and Winning Time – which shoutout to Rodney Barnes because Winning Time is absolutely fantastic. I LOVE Killadelphia, but Winning Time is probably the best thing I’ve consumed that Barnes has written. And then I’m also finally watching through Superstore and I’m really enjoying it. I don’t really have time to sit down and watch movies these days, unfortunately, but the best movie I saw in 2021 was The Harder They Fall on Netflix. If you haven’t seen that yet, make time to do so if you can. As for comics, anything my homies are putting out is usually what I’m reading. Beyond that, Saga is back like it never left, Black Hammer Reborn is great, and I can’t wait for the last trade of Deadly Class to drop later this month so I can see how that story wraps up!
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
MJ: All Star Superman, Blacksad, and it's a tie between Superman Secret Identity and Strange Adventures by King, Gerards, Shaner and co. That was the last book to make me audibly say "Wow".
TH: You would ask me this. For those that don’t know, I am finishing up a PhD in history where one of my fields of study is comic books. So if I am putting a comics museum together – and I won’t list any of the origin issues of Big Two characters – the 3 books I would have to include are: Maus from Spiegelman; Will Eisner’s A Contract With God; and Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story, whose creators are lost to history.
CBY: Any other projects CBY readers should check out?
MJ: Sentience from Band of Bards, Tyrant Fall, and Frankenstein the Unconquered, both on Kickstarter
TH: Make sure you be on the lookout for Titan the Ultra Man #4 from Advent Comics. Tony Kittrell has built a fantastic comic book universe with Advent over the years and people should definitely be reading those books. Titan the Ultra Man #4 will be on Kickstarter soon.
CBY: Where can you be found online?
TH: Twitter is my only social media presence, and my handle is @travisbhill5.
CBY: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Travis and Marcus, and I can’t wait to read all of TechnoKnights!