After catching up on the first two issues of the phenomenal Cosmic I jumped at the chance to catchup with it’s creators and Panels Comics members – Letty Wilson & Erin Keepers.
What was the inspiration for Cosmic?
Letty: I think Erin had the germ of the idea – I remember her telling me about an idea she’d been wanting to write of a story about an alien human hybrid, and the different ways that could work. We were both doing the “Creating Comics” module on the Comics Studies MLitt in Dundee, which involves creating a short comic – Erin approached me with the basic idea to collaborate and it sounded cool, so I agreed. It developed a lot from there though – the initial story was only about 10 pages long, but it kept growing! Even for the initial assignment we were begging our professors to give us a few more pages to work with right up until the deadline. There’s also a lot in it that’s inspired by what we personally want to see in stories; diverse characters and sci-fi worlds that are interesting and challenging but still ultimately hopeful.
Erin: The inspiration for Cosmic is hard to pin down, probably because it was inspired by so many things. I knew I wanted to write a character driven, science fiction story but other than that, I had no idea what the world was going to look like or the plot until I saw Letty’s character sketches. Actually, this was the first summary I wrote for the story:
As far as the alien girl story goes, I was thinking that it’ll be kind of stream of consciousness story, following her thoughts about being a stranger in this new world, and how when she first arrived, she tried to save a woman by absorbing her, and now has to define her new identity. Or some such.
After that, we just kind of kept throwing ideas at each other until the whole mess just sort of coalesced into the story as we know it today.
Do you have the whole series planned out?
Letty: Haha, I think Erin knows a lot more than I do! I generally only know a couple of issues ahead in detail. I know a broad-strokes idea of what the next few arcs involves, but to be honest I love the surprise of getting to read through each script as a new thing! It also helps when it comes to art to approach each issue as new. usually my art’s improved in the interim so taking a fresh look at what I can do differently to best tell the story is always useful.
Erin: Not the whole series, but the first three, maybe four, arcs at least. Of course, because I came up with most of it three years ago now, and because of the way we and our styles have changed over time, as we keep going forward, Letty and I are definitely open to changing how events play out.
As you’re both based in different countries – does that make the collaboration more of a challenge for the progress of the book?
Letty: Technology is a huge help in this. Even when we were studying together and only a couple minutes’ walk away, we used Facebook and google docs a lot. Living on different sides of the Atlantic, that’s become our main means of working together. We’ll discuss specific issues and ideas on Facebook, and use a script on a gdoc to make sure we’re working from the same thing. The doc is also great because we can highlight bits and comment on them within the document.
Erin: Luckily no, at least not that I’ve noticed. Technology has gotten to the point that we can still work on the same documents at the same time, even across time zones. So once the script is done, Letty is able to keep me involved in every step of the art process. If we had to mail scripts and pictures and wait for months to hear back, now that would be difficult.
Do you have more planned as a collaborative team?
Letty: Nothing specifically just the two of us planned right now – Cosmic takes up a lot of time and we both have other stuff going on. But working with Erin is awesome, I’ll definitely always be willing to work with her if a project comes up and I’m always excited to see her writing.
Erin: I will keep working with Letty for as long as she’ll let me. Letty is one of those rare, magical people who is talented enough to do every part of a comic alone, so the fact that she likes working with me at all is a constant boost for my self-esteem. But as far as specific projects go, we’re just working on Cosmic for now. Maybe once we finish it, we’ll start working on something else together.
What other titles can we expect from Panels Comics?
Letty: So many things. Nathan Langridge and Isaac Hoar are continuing their amazing sci-fi comedy adventure Sosmonaut the Cosmonaut – the second issue came out earlier this year and I love it, and the third and final installment debuts at Thought Bubble comic con in Leeds! We’re also planning to start an anthology which will feature short stories by various members of the team all bundled up together. And I’m planning once I round off issue 5 of Cosmic to get to work on some standalone projects that I’ve been brooding over for far too long, including a high school drama set at the bottom of the ocean, and starring various deep-sea sharks.
What or who inspires your writing/art?
Letty: I’ve always been a big wildlife nerd, so nature and animals are a huge inspiration. I look to a lot of zoological and botanical art, especially for monster design! In terms of other artists, there are millions I could mention, but lately I look a lot at James Harren, Dan McDaid and Andrew MacLean. I love MacLean’s big clean lines and stylised compositions in Head Lopper. McDaid is probably the best inker working in comics today and I’m always trying to learn from his mix of clean, sharp lines and brushy rougher patches. And James Harren just straight up does the best monsters.
Erin: I grew up watching and reading a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy so quite a bit of my writing is squarely rooted space operas and high fantasy. As I got older, I really fell in love with stories that are more character driven than plot driven, especially when the characters had a whole, rich world to explore that was so much different that reality. These days, my inspiration comes in the form of wanting to “fix” the problematic things that I love; taking them apart, unpacking their tropes and stereotypes, and trying to twist them around to make a point.
Will you be collaborating on any of the other Panels Comics group on other titles?
Letty: If I possibly can, yes. I’ve worked with Cale Ward a bit on some stories incorporating Scottish folklore – the From the Deeps series, but that sort of got derailed by both of our changing schedules, so I’d love to do something standalone with him. I’ve plans to have some input on one of Faye Staceys’ upcoming projects as well, which will possibly be a part of that anthology I mentioned. And I definitely want to draw something with Nathan as well – we’ve done a couple of short stories but nothing substantial. I love working with different writers and with Panels I’m really lucky to have an amazing bunch to choose from, so of course I want to work with them all. The main issue is finding time to do so!
Erin: I’ve talked a bit with Faye Stacey about working on something. We have to work out a lot of the details and get our schedules synced up, but hopefully, within the next year, we might be doing a webseries. As far as everyone else goes, we’re pretty much all writers, so as much as I’d love to work with them, the lack of art talent might be a problem.
What else are you working on just now?
Letty: Right now Cosmic takes up most of my art time, but I also have a webcomic called Owl People. It’s a creepy mystery story about a city full of portals to magical worlds, and the guy that has to try to keep the peace between them. I’m also working on the scripts for that deep-sea-high-school project I mentioned, and for a post-apocalyptic robot story, though that’s in the very early stages. Plus next February Dark Horse are publishing an anthology called Secret Loves of Geeks, which I have a story in! It’s an amazing crowd of artists and writers to be included in and I’m super excited for it!
Erin: Norrie and I have our Minus Inertia story running in David Lloyd’s digital publication Aces Weekly. The first volume of that just wrapped up & will be available from the site soon and the first instalment of the second volume will be beginning shortly. Outside that, Cosmic #4: Chameleon will be out this weekend which you’ll be able to pick up at the Panels Comics booth at Thought Bubble in Leeds.
You can also keep up to date with Letty & Erin on the links below:
Portfolio site: behance.net/lettydraws
Owl People: owl-people.com