In the near future, people are plugged into each other’s heads, making it easier to communicate with each other through thought alone. From Image Comics, “Alex + Ada” #1 follows a broken-hearted young man dealing with the aftermath of his break-up and how an android might be his only hope to reconnect with the world. A different kind of relationship is about to begin for Alex when Ada suddenly arrives at his doorstep.
Bloody-Disgusting spoke to creators Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn about the sci-fi romantic premise, building the futuristic design of Alex’s world, and what lies ahead in his journey with the android named Ada.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell us about the genesis for “Alex + Ada.”
Jonathan Luna: I’ve wanted to do a futuristic story for a very long time. I’m fascinated with robots and androids. And since I have a leaning toward drama and romance, I decided my next project would be a story of a young man and a female android.
Sarah, a good friend, is a writer and is very much into romance comics. She was very helpful to me with my fairy-tale picture book, “Star Bright And The Looking Glass.” We had great creative conversations, so I asked her if she was interested in co-writing the series with me, and she was immediately on board. What I didn’t anticipate was how larger in scale the story would become. We’ll let that play out in the book, but society plays a role.
BD: With this being advertised as a 12-issue maxi-series, is it a finite story or is the door open in case the book becomes a hit?
JL: We’re actually still figuring out the length. It’s at least 12 issues. It could be up to 15. And I like creating stories with a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve never lengthened or shortened a story due to success or failure, and don’t intend to.
BD: Jonathan you took a break from comics after the completion of “The Sword.” You released a hardcover fantasy/children’s book, “Star Bright And The Looking Glass,” but haven’t worked on a monthly title since. Why such a long hiatus from comics and what was it that brought you back to producing a monthly title?
JL: With “Ultra,” “Girls,” and “The Sword,” I co-plotted, penciled, inked, colored, and partly lettered those series for six years straight. It was exhausting. From a TED talk, I had heard of an idea of taking a full year off after working for six or seven years. I thought that would be a healthy and inspiring thing to do. I ended up taking two years off. I spent one year doing photography mostly as a hobby, and I spent the other officially learning how to paint (with oil) by taking a class, then putting some pieces in shows. Painting lead me to doing the Star Bright, which is ironically water colored. In the middle of Star Bright, I realized I really missed telling a story in panels, beat by beat.
BD: Jonathan, typically in the past you’ve often collaborated with your brother, but on “Alex + Ada,” you’re working with co-writer Sara Vaughn. How is it working with Sarah verses your brother?
JL: Pretty similarly actually. Very collaborative. We talk just about every day involving every aspect of the book.
Sarah Vaughn: It’s actually really weird when we don’t talk.
BD: Sarah, what’s it been like working with Jonathan in bring this book to life and what is the collaborative process like?
SV: It’s been exciting and challenging. Jon is great to work with. This is the first comic I’ve written. I’m learning ten things a day, and he’s been really patient as I get up to speed and learn the ropes of the comic industry. The collaboration is intensive. We’re constantly discussing the past, present and future, and how to make the book better.
BD: Sarah, tell us about your web-comic, “Sparkshooter” and why fans should check it out. Also, how has it been making the web-comic to a monthly book, “Alex + Ada” and being published through Image for you as a creator?
SV: “Sparkshooter” (Sparkshooter.com) is a comedy about an indie rock band circa 2003 that brings in a female lead singer and how she affects the dynamics of the group. It’s written by Troy Brownfield, and I was the artist until I had to step down to recover from a repetitive stress injury in my drawing hand and arm. The train just started again, thankfully! Ben Olson is finishing up Chapter 2, and then the new artist, Enkaru, will be taking over; so there’ll be new pages for everyone to read.
You would think a serial web comic and print would be vastly different, but they still fall under the same strategy. An update or issue needs to be as interesting as possible, self-contained, but that same update/issue also needs to keep within the flow of the entire story.
BD: In the opening pages, we see how everything, from clothing to taking a shower, is practically done for Alex. Tell me about the introduction to this futuristic world.
JL: Actually, I wouldn’t say that things are even practically done for Alex or anyone else in the Alex + Ada world. Robots and machines help them live a more efficient life, but people still clean, dress, and feed themselves. I can be quite cynical about society at times, but even I don’t think people will ever be that lazy not to take care of themselves in that way.
SV: I’m totally that lazy. I would be on board for a conveyor-belt morning routine. But, Jon’s right. The technology in this future makes everything much more convenient, but it doesn’t necessarily take away the manpower or effort needed to maintain personal hygiene…sadly.
BD: In the opening pages, we are introduced to a flying cup-holder and a holographic alarm clock. Tell me about creating these sci-fi ideas that seem futuristic and grounded at the same time. How fun was it to build the futuristic world where Alex exists?
JL: I love futuristic design. And there’s a lot of amazingly designed stuff in sci-fi films and art. But I do think that a lot of it wouldn’t work in our world today. It’s too difficult to read or interact with as an interface, or it wouldn’t make us feel comfortable. I try not to make the designs too crazy because of that. It’s all so much fun, while intimidating to design so many things, but yeah, it’s a challenge to keep it grounded and not go too wild with it.
SV: This is when I really enjoy being a writer and getting to just type, “Robot waiter takes their order.” Jon’s the one who really needs to bring it to life. We agree on the function, but he’s done such an amazing job at creating the form.
BD: Is the book meant to be a sort of statement about how we as a civilization has really have come to depend on technology for everything? Simple things like one on one communication are gone in favor of communicating via text or electronic device…
SV: I’d say that’s an aspect of the story, but the statement is far more how we as humans relate to things and people who are different from ourselves.
BD: In the future, people are waiting for a possible Artificial Intelligence Attack, a metaphor for a terrorist attack. Tell me about this aspect of the story and how important it will be throughout the story?
SV: It will certainly play a role. Issue one starts with the aftermath of the Nexaware Massacre a year after it happened, and we’ll continue to deal with the restrictions placed on advanced robots to make sure it never happens again. Nothing is at it seems.
BD: Tell me about the mindset of Alex, who’s still dealing with the emotional fallout from a bad break-up.
JL: Alex is dealing with a break-up like many of us have. He’s having trouble moving on. He’s lonely, but doesn’t necessarily not want to be alone either.
BD: Tell me about the relationship between Alex and his grandma. They have a phone call conversation that is open, honest, and humorous at the same time.
SV: Grandma knows she has no filter, and delights in teasing Alex, who’s a bit of a square. They love each other, but she does take advantage of being an elder and the respect that demands. But, Alex also knows when to draw the line.
BD: Tell us about the emergence of Ada in Alex’s life and how that relationship will drive the story…
SV: Well…I’m not sure we can say anything about this without spoiling it! She’s integral to Alex’s journey, and vice versa. Alex never asked for her, and never wanted to own a companion android, but here she is, and now he needs to figure out what to do with her.
BD: What can you tell us about the next issues of “Alex + Ada?”
SV: We’re definitely expanding on what it means to have and be a robot in a world of prejudice and fear of the unknown.
BD: “Alex + Ada” has been described as a science-fiction romance story. How hard of a sell is a book like this in today’s marketplace?
JL: There aren’t a lot of creators doing it, but I don’t think that means it’s necessarily a difficult book to sell. “Saga” is doing very well. And the orders for “Alex + Ada” #1 are the highest orders I’ve ever gotten in my career to date. So I’m very pleased with that, and would endlessly like to thank the fans and retailers for their interest and support.
BD: 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?
JL: Creating my own work is very rewarding to me, but I’m not against doing work for hire. I have had to turn down work in the past, and that could be why I haven’t been offered more lately, but I hope that’s not the case.
BD: Jonathan, “The Sword” was recently optioned as a feature film by Lakeshore Entertainment (“Underworld”). What can you tell about the development of the film so far and what has your experience been like so far dealing with Hollywood?
JL: As it was announced a few months ago, David Hayter, who co-wrote the films “Watchmen,” “X-Men,” and “X2,” and voiced Snake from “Metal Gear,” has been writing the screenplay. I’m very excited that he was chosen. As for Hollywood in general, everyone that I’ve been dealing with has been great, professional, and enthusiastic. This is a great time to be making movies and TV series, and I’m such a huge fan of them and grateful to be a part of it.
BD: What other projects are you working on now? What’s next?
SV: I’m staying involved with “Sparkshooter,” albeit on a much smaller scale, and am currently working on a couple illustration projects still in their early stages.
JL: I definitely have many ideas in my head, but I’m just concentrating on “Alex + Ada” for now.
“Alex + Ada” #1 is in comic book stores now.
Interview by – Big J and Jorge Solis