Ken Garing Discusses Planetoid: Praxis

planetoidpraxis_01-1Planetoid: Praxis is the long-anticipated sequel to the popular 2012 miniseries Planetoid. The inhabitants of a distant planetoid have fought off their robot overlords and established a thriving settlement on the planetoid’s mechanized surface. Now, years later, their de facto leader, Onica, must grapple with a new complication when their isolated way of life is threatened by the arrival of an unexpected visitor!

Writer and artist Ken Garing discusses his latest series.

Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for Planetoid: Praxis come from?

Ken Garing: The first series, Planetoid, was meant to be a single story arc, but after I finished it I kept having ideas about where things could go with the characters and story. I worked on a series of different projects after Planetoid but Praxis kept on growing and developing, which eventually lead to me fully committing to it.

GP: It’s been quite some time since Planetoid was published. Did you hesitate at all revisiting this world?

KG: A little bit. It’s a lot of work to do a series like this single-handedly. But once I got the ball rolling it all felt very right and natural. I have many other non-Planetoid stories I want to tell, but once I had the story sorted out, I felt like Praxis needed to come out first.

GP: You’ve had quite a lot going on in your life in between the publishing of the two volumes. Did any of that impact the story?

KG: Definitely. Like when I first began working on Praxis I was staying in this industrial area of Chiba, Japan. I could see flames from the steel mill from the house I was staying at. So, in that case I literally wound up using my own living environment as reference. I’m sure there are other examples that I’m unaware of where real life creeps in. I’m always reading something, both fiction and non-fiction, and I’m sure that material influences what I’m working on.

GP: I personally think good sci-fi acts as an allegory to our world. Reading the first issue, I immediately think of immigration, fear of others, a lot of the xenophobia that’s going on in the world? Was that something you were thinking of when writing this series?

KG: For Praxis #1 I was thinking about the act of “othering” generally. People have very weird ways of rationalizing the harm done against those labeled as “others”. There’s a lot of seemingly very nice, moral people that are completely unbothered by the murder or harming of innocent people if it fits a certain criteria. We’re supposed to be in this modern interconnected world but simple geography is still enough to warrant human life meaningless in certain regions of the world. Ever since I was young this has bothered me. Praxis gives me a chance to explore issues like this.

GP: In your letter in the back of the first issue you talk about a lack of, then flood of science fiction comics on the market. Why do think there’s been a change like that?

KG: Saga, Prophet and Planetoid all came out around the same time and there was talk about Image being the new home for science-fiction comics. But later that same year Star Wars was sold to Disney, so surely that was the biggest influence.

But science-fiction covers a huge spectrum of material. Some of what I see now is really interesting, but honestly, a lot of it looks like the cheesy sci-fi from the early 2000’s, which Planetoid was reacting against. Most sci-fi that is purely escapist comes off as vapid in my view. Even as a kid I was attracted to the big ideas more than the big tech. If the imagery isn’t charged with some kind of idea then it doesn’t do much for me.

GP: The world you’ve put together feels very fleshed out. Have you made a “bible” of this world and its history?

KG: I do have a text document with all my notes but it’s all pretty messy. I try to be very careful about what I reveal, because I don’t want the world-building to become unwieldy or inconsistent.

Also, I think it’s interesting to let readers wonder about things. For example, in the Planetoid comics, the current state of Earth has never been revealed, even though I have very specific ideas about that.

GP: You write, draw, and letter the comic. How much time does it take you to put together an issue?

KG: The first issue took me almost a year. But there was a lot of false starts in the beginning and revisions later on. The later issues took me less than 3 months.

Going forward, I’m hoping to switch up my style and do something more loose. That way I can put out more comics while still doing it all myself.

GP: Does how you put together an issue vary with this than if you just wrote it yourself? Do you, script, then draw, just do it all at once?

KG: It does vary. If you’re working for a client, you have to make things intelligible. You can’t give them a bunch of loose notes and sketches and tell them that the rest is in your head. But that’s kind of how I work when I’m on my own. Also, with the Planetoid comics, sometimes I’ll revise things at the last second… which is something you really shouldn’t do if you’re working with other people.

But still, even with Planetoid I do follow the general framework of breaking down the scenes per issue, loosely scripting, doing the art and then revising the script during the lettering phase.

GP: Do you think there’s an advantage to doing it all yourself? Do you have a preference as to writing and drawing? Just writing? Just drawing?

KG: I did some issues of TMNT as just a straight penciler/inker and it was fun. And I also like just writing. I have some prose science-fiction short stories that I’d like to have published someday.

But as a comics reader, I was always mostly drawn to work by a single writer/artist. For me, that’s the norm. Comics like; Moebius’ Airtight Garage, Miller’s Ronin, Kirby’s DC work, McFarlane and Larsen’s Spider-Man, Corben and Crumb’s underground comics, Clowes’ Eightball, the Hernandez brothers’ Love & Rockets

And most Manga artists write and draw their own work; Otomo, Shirow, Tezuka, etc.

Praxis is a science-fiction comic by genre but, ultimately, it’s personal work. That’s the type of work I’ve always wanted to do. Weirdly, the industry at large doesn’t seem to make this distinction, but for me it’s a big one.

GP: Any advice for folks wanting to get into the comics industry?

KG: Complete your work, make sure it’s good, and then share it with people. Those are three things you can do independent of anyone or anything else.

GP: Any other projects you’d like to plug?

KG: Just Praxis for now. Thanks!

GP: Sounds good! Thanks so much for chatting.

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