[Interview] Alison Sampson and Nathan Edmonson talk Creation, Collaboration, and Creativity in “Genesis.”

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‘Genesis’ is a new paperback graphic novella from Image Comics. Drawn by Alison Sampson, written by Nathan Edmondson, with colors by Jason Wordie, in shops on 16 April. The book is 64 pages centered on the act of infinite creation. The protagonist wanders through life willing anything he thinks of into existence. What follows is an existential look at surrealist creation that will have you questioning your own beliefs and give you a deeper insight into the loss that often comes with creating something.

I was lucky enough to have an advanced look at this insane and beautiful book. ‘Genesis’ is sure you make you feel a cavalcade of emotions. So after this stunning read I sat down with Alison Sampson and Nathan Edmondson to talk about the process of creating a book about creation.

Bloody-Disgusting: What must someone sacrifice to create? Is creation also destruction?

Nathan Edmondson: As far as this story is concerned creation requires only some control over oneself and one’s will. I’ve never subscribed to the Nietzschean notion that creation necessitates destruction; in my view that idea contradicts the meaning of creation as an original act (as a Genesis?)

Alison Sampson: Time and effort. You don’t have to sacrifice principles to work with other people, just a bit of ego. In creating, you are always revealing a little bit of the inside of yourself, so you give away a little bit of privacy, exposing yourself by putting your work out there, so that’s a sacrifice. It’s so much harder to design a utopia than a dystopia, with the former, you have to put so much more of yourself on the page. And in terms of there being destruction, well, one thing always displaces another, even if that thing destroyed is a white page- and the world is already full of stuff, so yes. Creation is change and flux, and something going from one state to another.

BD: The book has a very somber and emotional tone, how did this affect the art?

AS: The script Nathan gave me was pretty concise. I think it could have been interpreted in a number of ways, but there are certain events, which set the tone. It seems all my art is sombre and emotional. I was listening to things like the Gravediggers Song, by John Lanegan. I wanted the comic to be as beautiful as possible, and gentle. The Hiroshi Yoshida idea for a palette came out of that- he uses quite strange (but often soft) colours in an emotional way, on landscapes. Jason applied that palette in probably a sunnier way than I expected, and he put a lot of work into what went where. So the three of us brought our different approaches and they tied up together to form what you see.

BD: The approach of the book seems seeded in spiritualism, but is really about creativity. Why call the book genesis?

NE: Simply because of the relationship to the idea of a creative beginning; Genesis also offers the broad blanket to cover a number of things the reader might take away from the story (not that I have any idea what those things are, really, but Genesis will hopefully cover them!)

BD: Why is Adam so disappointed in his own monumental achievements?

NE: Not sure. Perhaps he’s something of a perfectionist, like a painter who hopes his first works will live up to the great pieces of art he studied before painting himself. He realizes, perhaps, that his power is nearly limitless, but not self-directing.

AS: It’s probably reasonable. The learning process in art usually means you look at your older work and think “I could do so much better/ so much more than that”. You know where all the mistakes lie, where all the compromises were made. The execution is never as pure as the idea, and is complex and compromised and has more things to pick at. And you are older and wiser, and have the benefit of hindsight.

BD: What made you want to tell this story?

NE: That’s not something I’m ever sure I can answer about a book; sometimes you just get hooked by an idea. I had this one bouncing in my head for sometime before I found a collaborator to take it forward.

AS: I love making things- its a way of leaving your mark on the world- and Nathan pitched his idea really well. And I liked the idea of taking on something almost mythic- those tales stand the test of time. And it sounded like tremendous fun to draw (which it was).

BD: The art has a towering and almost overwhelming style showing monumental creation, how did you decide on the look?

AS: I had the script and in designing on the paper, I don’t do a lot of thinking, so it was looking at where the marks on the paper went, and trying to see how I could get the composition right and get it to make sense. I like detail, and since this is not a monthly book, I didn’t want it to look like one. You can do an awful lot with the design of space, to make your point. There is a lot of original design work in this book, even of things like crowds and landscapes.

BD: How did you design the warped and unfamiliar structures that populate the book?

AS: I drew thumbnails, layouts at print size, got things in the right place, scaled them up onto Bristol board, pencilled all the figures onto the pages in detail, then designed the architecture round them, following the basic lines on the rough. Usually I try not to do too detailed roughs, because otherwise you end up designing it again. Often the pencils aren’t too detailed either, because not everything has to be worked up to the same level. Its much harder to design something than to copy a photo. Design takes time, and even longer if you want it to be perspective perfect.

BD: What was your favorite part of creating the book?

NE: As with any comic, it’s seeing the world and story come to life in the art. Until the art is rendered, the story is just an idea, just an intention. With GENESIS as you can see, the art came to life and evolved quickly into something far beyond a writer’s ability to describe and imagine and plan for, which makes for a truly enjoyable collaboration and relies, of course, on an artist with the prowess and skill that Alison brought to the story.

AS: Designing the pages, and also inking them, to bring the design to life. I also really enjoy some of the inconsequential parts, like putting together the crowd in the market, with all the facial expressions. It isn’t material to the story, but it makes a better book. I also enjoyed getting the script in. It could be anything…

BD: Alsion, how did your past in architecture factor into creating this book?

AS: That is hard to answer as I don’t have the benefit of being able to compare it to any other past. But I’m sure the answer is “a lot”, from the way the art is drawn, to the page layouts and the way one space on the page relates to another. I’d have had less conventional page layouts if there had been more breathing space in the script, as well.

BD: How did you create the staggering look of the architectural figures? Was there any collaboration on the visual look of the book?

AS: : I designed the architecture, the pages and the book and drew the art in black and white, recruited Jason Wordie and worked closely with him, and John Babcock, the letterer; chose the non-story content, and invited the guest artists- Robert Ball, Travel Foreman, Artyom Trakhanov, Chris Visions, Matthew Tayor, Ian McQue (who did our variant cover), Joseph Bergin III (who did our cover colours and inside back cover) and Tommy Lee Edwards. Nathan didn’t get involved with the reference, art, files, or production. Genesis is also full of easter eggs, where I refer to the work of my friends, or have taken a small suggestion from them- Ale Aragon’s panda, Jock’s studio, Matt Southworth’s lighthouse, all sorts of things are there. I dig into memories of places I’ve been and architecture I like.

BD: Creating something outside of ourselves means confronting aspects of our own personality, what parts of you are in “Genesis?”

NE: Writing is, if anything, I think, an exercise in trying to keep yourself out of what you’re working on. Hopefully I’m not identifiable in any direct way in my work, especially because I wouldn’t want a reader trying to decide what they think of identifying with me—but only trying to enjoy the work itself.

AS: I think the same goes for the art in this instance. We are trying to tell a story, not tell about ourselves. This said, there is a period of my life in there and a learning experience and a lot of hard work. Two people very close to me passed away, when I was making this. My good friend Shayla passed away when I was drawing page 30 and I put her name on the street sign. My mum passed away about three weeks before I knew Image would publish, and her name is on the inside front cover (actually, as is Shayla’s).

BD: What’s next for the two of you? What are you currently excited to be working on?

NE: In addition to continuing with The Punisher and Black Widow (and some more Marvel stuffs) I have some creator owned work coming up quickly while I wrap current books—and some more film and television fun.

AS: I’m just putting the last couple of pages, from the guest artists, into the Genesis, then this book is complete for Image. I’m drawing a horror story with a US-based writer, and developing some other creator owned work. And I’ve also got a story in In The Dark, from IDW, which is out a week after Genesis.

“Genesis is available for pre-order now, with Diamond code FEB140504, for comic shops.

The cutoff for pre-orders from comic shops is 24 March, so order from your retailer by then to be sure of getting a copy.

The ISBN for bookshops is ISBN 978-60706-995-9

Retail price is $6.99, 64 pages + cover, full colour, paperback.