We had the opportunity to have a chat with the talented artist Ariela Kristantina from Boom! Studios about her new project Deep State. Although fairly new on the comic scene (having previously worked on some Marvel titles) she has already developed her own distinctive style. We talked conspiracy theories with her and got to find out what she knows about JFK.
Graphic Policy: This is an all-new series with brand-new characters. What choices did you make when designing them?
Ariela Kristantina: For any all-new series, I try to stick to the writer’s descriptions about the characters,environment and mood. If I have any suggestion, I will share it with the writer, and on this case, with the editors as well. The first time I read the script, I am very leery because I’m afraid I can’t stay away from Mulder and Scully designs. Thankfully, Eric Harburn and Justin were very helpful and gave me the right direction.
I personally want the female character to look and “spark” sassiness to support her dialogues. Moreover, I know John Harrow is the main character but Branch needs to come out, at the very least, almost as strong. For John Harrow, because I usually draw male characters one third of his age, if not younger, it’s kinda new for me. I reckon that he should be a tad “forgettable”, in a good way, because you don’t want an agent whose main job is to cover things up, leaves such a deep impression. However, at the same time, John Harrow needs to be memorable enough to the readers. It’s more complicated than I thought when I first doing some sketches of him.
As the series go on, artists get steadier and more comfortable with the characters. That’s what I feel now after I wrapped up issue #2 and now I am half way through issue #3.
GP: The series has a lot of different elements coming together from different conspiracy theories. Is it hard to switch between normal Earth scenes into scenes with a strong science-fiction influence?
AK: Not really. I am trying to do it as seamlessly as possible and since I ink my own pencils, it’s easier to push, create, or explore new way of inking for specific scenes. Ben Wilsonham, the colorist, helps a lot to fill in the mood.
GP: The design of the aliens in this series fit in perfectly with the story. Did you have to research a lot about aliens, or did you come up with a new design?
AK: Haha, to be honest, I didn’t really do a lot of research because of two reasons. First, Justin has a gift for describing something really well without being too restrictive. I can fill in the “gaps” easily and more often than not, I get what he wants. Second, the other reason is because I enjoy watching most horror and sci-fi alien-infested-related movies. However, I AM trying my best to come up with a new design that FITS the story which is the most important of all.
GP: The artwork has an organic feel to it, and by the end of the first issue, it seemed to be a perfect fit for the story. How involved were you with Justin in the storytelling?
AK: This is actually the funny, or fun, part of the whole deal. This is our first time working together but I feel like the chemistry in this team is very strong. When I first heard from Eric, the editor, that Justin might have a story for me, I almost flipped out because I am a big fan. I did the sample pages BOOM! asked me to do and both Eric and Justin liked how I handled the art.
For each script, after the editors greenlight the initial layout, I will move onto the outlines. Justin will see my outlines –more like the pencils stage. From there, if he or the editors have more revisions and or changes, I will adjust the inks accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, Justin isn’t very restrictive and he’s very open to my suggestions if I come up with different, sometimes, weird layout. However, I try to stick with the script most of the time mostly because everytime I read Justin’s scripts, I can easily “picture” an episode from a TV series playing in my head. Why change something that is appealing to you to begin with? Unless the storytelling is really impossible to follow which very rarely happens, I want the readers to see how epic the storytelling is that Justin builds.
GP: The series looks like it is going to be focusing a lot on science fiction. Is this a genre that you feel comfortable in? And are there other genres that you would like to have a chance at drawing?
AK: When I first started years ago in my country, I drew in “Japanese comic style” in various genre: romantic comedy, surreal, adventure, and action. Then I shifted to superhero for the last 3 years but I never really want to draw only ONE thing. This is actually the first time I am involved with a sci-fi series. It turns out, I quite enjoy it. The genre is never a bother to me as long as I enjoy the story and the working environment.
Other genres I would like to explore more is maybe slice-of-life with a touch of surrealistic mood to it; something like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” –not really comedic but it’s clearly a fun movie.
GP: What goes through your mind when the writer tells you that you have to draw a sex scene as happens at the end of the first issue?
AK: Hahaha, I honestly didn’t see it as a sex scene –at least, it’s not blatant intercourse. The “note” regarding that page is a pretty clear one: no naked body part should be seen on the page. I second that anytime of the day because none is needed, not for that page at least. Don’t get me wrong, I am comfortable with drawing naked body parts (go see my Instagram feeds) as long as the story needs it to motivate the characters involved to take further actions. If I see a sex scene can be taken out or can be drawn more subtly or elegantly without harming the story, I would mostly ask the writer/editor about the why we need to show breasts and or ass in the first place.
GP: Are there any conspiracy theories that you find particularly intriguing?
AK: Another fun fact is that I am a foreigner –I am not from the United States. Any conspiracy theories I have ever heard or known are theories being mentioned in American TV shows, novels, or Hollywood movies. I watched the JFK movie when I was way too young to understand but now I think The JFK Assassination is one of conspiracy theories I find intriguing. Others are The Knight Templars and, of course, the moon landing haha. Glad Justin cleared the latter for me.