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Interview: Joshua Luna On ‘Whispers’

Joshua Luna is best known for his work on critically acclaimed series like The Sword, Ultra and Girls alongside his brother Jonathan Luna, which have become some essential reading for fans of independent comics.

Now Joshua Luna is branching off on his own with a new horror/supernatural mini-series from Image entitled Whispers. The series focuses on Sam, a young man with severe O.C.D. who discovers that he has the ability to manifest himself as a ghost while he dreams. Whispers is a compelling character driven ghost story that examines questions of free will, existence, and addictions.

Bloody-Disgusting caught up with Joshua Luna to get this scoop on Whispers, releasing his first series without the aid of his brother, and how the series will frighten readers as they step into the madness of Sam’s own mind.

whispers2int Sam, the series main character in Whispers, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. One of the best moments in issue #1 for me was seeing the terror that goes through Sam’s mind from simply touching a door handle. Was there a lot of research involved with making his condition as realistic as possible?

Josh: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be a very complex condition, so there was definitely a lot of research involved in order to portray it as accurately and sensitively as possible. I didn’t want to depict the disorder as a silly character quirk or something that felt tagged on haphazardly or unnecessarily. One of the main concepts of the story questions if we as individuals actually have power over our own fates or if we are all simply victims to predetermination, genetic dispositions, divine forces, etc. I found that OCD was such a natural vehicle to explore those ideas, but I should be clear that Whispers is not solely about OCD, nor am I attempting to dispense professional medical info. This is still very much a fictional supernatural horror, even though it’s also very grounded in reality–which, in my opinion, makes fiction effective.

In addition to Sam’s mental disorder, there are also horror and supernatural elements to Whispers. Can you talk a bit about how those elements and how they creep into the story?

Josh: The first introduction to the supernatural is Sam discovering his ability to leave his body in “ghost” form when asleep and read and manipulate people’s thoughts. Because he has existing mental disorders, the obvious assumption is that he’s losing his mind and it’s all in his head, but he soon discovers that it is very real. Initially, he feels incredibly empowered and excited to explore our world as an invisible voyeur, but that quickly changes when he discovers very frightening beings that the human eye cannot and should not see. What these beings want and what Sam is going to do with this knowledge is where things get interesting.

Another big part of the Whispers story seems to center around Sam’s past relationships with former girlfriends Lily and Vanessa. How crucial are they to the overall storyline and are those past relationships are what is currently driving Sam?

Josh: On a story level, the two ex’s definitely play integral roles as major chess pieces in a very dangerous game Sam begins to play. Vanessa is the risk taking drug addict, essentially the physical manifestation of everything Sam’s mother warned him about growing up. The current ex, Lily, is the opposite. So on a deeper level, Sam’s relationships with them speak a lot about his character—specifically, his struggle with himself and his mother. Did I mention Sam has issues? But yes, at first, those past relationships are what drives Sam at first, but that changes a bit once he becomes entangled in a darker, supernatural world, and things get even messier when he gets his ex’s entangled in it as well. But I won’t spoil exactly how that happens.

Your previous comic work (The Sword, Girls, Ultra) has been a collaborative effort between you and your brother and Whispers is your first solo project. How has this creative process changed from past efforts and what promoted you to embark on this project solo without your brother?

Josh: Many people who have read our work may not be aware of this, but I was drawing long before I attempted to write. But after graduating art school, I landed a full-time government job that only allowed me to take on writing chores while my brother handled the art. We had a great collaboration throughout Ultra, Girls and The Sword, but I never lost the desire to draw comics. Now, I’m finally able, since I’ve decided to make comics full time. I decided to take on Whispers without collaboration because I had a specific vision of the story I wanted to tell, and I knew exactly how to bring it to life.

whispers1int

You handled the artwork for Whispers and it’s somewhat of a change compared to the sort of animated/somewhat manga style that your brother employed on Ultra/The Sword. Your artwork on Whispers seems to be a little more realistic and less comic book looking, which I really loved. Was there something about this series that warranted the style change or is that simply your art style?

Josh: I have two art styles—a silly, cartoony one, and the one you see in Whispers. Though there are some humorous elements in Whispers, it has a primarily darker tone so it felt more appropriate to use a more grounded art style.

Is Whipsers one complete story that will be finished after the mini-series or are you open to doing more?

Josh: It’s one complete story, scheduled for a 6 issue run. I tend to gravitate towards finite stories. I guess I just like closure.

What’s next for you after Whispers? Can you give us any insight into what you have planned for the remainder of 2012?

Josh: I‘m constantly brainstorming and thinking of new story ideas, so I’ll most likely work on a new creator owned project after Whispers. But for now, I’m just way too focused on Whispers to think that far ahead.

How important is it for you to continue working on your own creator-owned works rather than doing work for hire? With the success of your Image books, you must have been offered work with other company owned creations?

Josh: Nope, I’ve never been offered work for hire, and I guess I never really pursued it to be honest. And I think that’s mainly because creating my own work is just so instinctive to me at this point, since I’ve literally been doing it since I was old enough to hold a pencil and staple stacks of paper together to make homemade comic books. I’ve always loved creating my own little world.

It’s been widely known that actor Bryce Dallas Howard has expressed interest in playing the lead in an a movie adaptation of The Sword. Has there been any interest or developments in optioning the series?

Josh: We’re currently in talks (with Ultra and Girls as well), but there is no major news as of yet.

Give us your hard sell to readers that might not have picked up your work before and what they can expect from Whispers?

Josh: I love to tell very grounded, character-driven stories with a supernatural element. And the supernatural elements in Whispers are ideas that always captured my imagination—what if sinister, paranormal entities lived amongst, and what if only one person was able to see them? What if these beings hurt people, and what would you do with that insane amount of responsibility? Also, what if you could read the minds of the people closest to you? How horrifying would it be to hear the cold hard truth of your loved ones’ unfiltered thoughts? These are the concepts that I am going to explore via a few interesting characters, and I hope readers are as excited as I am to take that ride.

Whispers Issue #1 is available now from Image Comics! You can check out the preview right here