Having recently got a look at the first volume of Genu I caught up with one of it’s creators, Tommaso Todesca (in the middle of the pic above), to get a bit of a background on the book itself.
What was the main inspiration in creating Genu?
It’s a bit of a funny story, actually: the three of us often talk about books via WhatsApp. In December 2018, we all read a book by Philip J. Farmer called “Jesus on Mars”, which is just as odd and quirky as the title suggests. It’s a brilliant novel, full of ideas and open-minded speculation. Initially we thought we would turn it into a graphic novel. What happened instead is that, in a very spontaneous way, we started to chop that story in pieces, throwing away huge chunks of it, adding major plot points, and after about 3 months of this, not even one character or one concept from “Jesus of Mars” had survived. We had a totally original story in front of us.
GENU is a complex project and therefore was inspired by a hundred different things, but mainly by our deep fascination with the ultimate question: where do we, as human beings, come from? What is our place in the universe? GENU’s fifth volume will provide a scientifically plausible answer, one that we’ve never found in any science fiction book.
Did the story evolve as part of the creative process?
Massively so! Keep in mind that our creative process can be described as a few Skype calls between Los Angeles, London and Boston, but more than anything else, a 14-months-long WhatsApp thread among the three of us, an explosive brain-storming where some ideas were rejected, some were put on hold, and some enthusiastically embraced with an immediate “green light”. The main skeleton of the story kept evolving until the end of 2019, when we decided to finally meet in Boston, where Giulio lives. In two days of walks around Cambridge and coffees in Harvard campuses we were able to come up with the final touches and finalize the story.
Our ultimate goal has always been a moment when an intelligent reader gets to the very end of GENU’s Volume 5, closes it, lifts his head and goes: “…wow.” It’s ambitious, sure, but we think we actually got there. And the grayscale-based art by Aleksandra Fastovets is so expressive and powerful that it’s the ideal complement for this story. Her perfect sense of proportions and her master of facial expressions still shock us every time we receive a new page from her.
How has it been working as a writing team for this series?
The writing has been and still is a real team effort. It’s not always easy, since the three of us have very different personalities and different tastes, but at the end of the day it’s a very democratic process, one where each of us feels like sharing his ideas with each other, and then we green light them or we just dump them.
What can we expect from the whole run of Genu?
All sort of things! What we really tried to do with Genu is to build a story that can be enjoyed at multiple levels: you get classic action, you get hard-core science, you get lots and lots of references to art, movies, books (lots of Easter eggs) and you also get some good old suspense. You’ll see, it’s going to be a fun ride!
How did the whole creative team get pulled together?
We are old friends. All three of us were born and raised in Italy (Alex and Giulio in Rome, Tommaso in Trento), and then left our country and went in separate ways. Tommaso had published a graphic novel called “Science and Faith” a couple of years ago, and when he talked to Giulio about working on a new graphic novel, the decision was made to work on it together. Not even two days after that conversation, Alex was also on board. We obviously have a special chemistry that is difficult to describe, because this crazy thing worked out even better than our most optimistic expectations.
What’s it been like working with Markosia?
Harry Markos, the founder and owner of Markosia Publishing, has been great to work with from the very first phone call, when he expressed his interest in GENU and he highlighted how he keeps hunting for slightly out-of-the-box stories, which is a perfect description for our story. With Markosia’s support, we can rely on many years of experience that we, as an independent team, do not have. As an aside, it’s so refreshing to see that some established names like Markosia are willing to bet on independent projects. It was a huge encouragement for us.
Do you have plans for other books outside of Genu or even in the same universe?
Yes, actually. We are (obviously) still in the early stages, but we are toying with the idea of a story set in the Middle Ages but…in the future. I can’t say much else at present, but as soon as GENU is complete, we will start focusing on the nightmare of a graphic novel and we honestly can’t wait.
What else are you working on just now?
GENU is keeping us pretty busy at present, so we don’t have enough time to focus on much else. Having said that, Alex is working on his first novel vaguely based on the story of a man trapped in the 4th dimension, so it’s quite philosophical and convolute, but he’s only written a few pages so far.
Thanks to Tommaso for taking the time to talk about Genu and it sounds like it’s going to be a mind-blowing ride for the whole series. Here’s an early look at some of the next volume too: