Four geniuses untouched by society descend upon Vida, a euphoric planet of endless resources with a sentient race of beings dependent on strict guidance from their leaders. However, a simple scientific experiment becomes an epic story of war, discovery, and the battle to become… a MONARCH.
Announced at New York Comic Con 2017, Monarchs is a brand new comic series from writer A.C. Medina, artist Fernando Pinto, and being published by Scout Comics.
We got a chance to talk to A.C. and Fernando about the series which debuts in 2018.
Graphic Policy: Tell us about the series. I saw the promo image at Baltimore Comic Con, but what’s the premise?
A.C. Medina: Monarchs is about four young geniuses who are sent to planet VIDA, with the task of figuring out the best form of leadership. VIDA has every resource imaginable, if you can think it, VIDA has it. Be that plants that produce actual fire embers or even electricity in the form of rocks in the mountains. The best resource found on VIDA however is its ‘Senties’, an enhanced sentient race of beings, who our leads create at their leisure, and are broken down into five basic categories who can only do what their leaders tell them to do. With this in mind our four leads duke it out on planet Vida taking what should be theoretically a simple experiment and turning into an life long battle for supremacy.
Fernando Pinto: So like a lot of stuff to draw. But, you know, fun -cries-
GP: Where did the concept come from? Was this something you two worked on together to come up with?
FP: Alan came to me with a couple of pitches for ideas he had that he thought I would be a good fit for after seeing my work online. We settled on this for the first project to do together after I told him I really dug the world building aspect Monarchs had. I’ve been complementing it with my ideas on the graphic side but the start of it is all Alan.
ACM: The idea came from gaming mostly, I enjoy story telling in all formats and have been lucky enough to grow up with games where story matters just as it does in top selling novels. I always make sure I start with a just of an idea before finding a collaborator who fits it. When I found Fernando’s website I knew I wanted to work with him instanly so I fired off a few e-mails with some blurbs (baby ideas) for him to choose. He chose Monarchs, and from there we just ran with it. I’ll run ideas by him and he’ll tell me if I’ve finally lost it or have something worthwhile, a bunch of late night Facebook messages and e-mails and next to you know, we had a story.
GP: You said the story is influenced by RTS games. How so? Any in particular? Did that also influence the art at all?
ACM: No one particular game but just the genre over all, or better yet, a specific moment that happens towards the end of any RTS game. It’s when you know you got the game in the bag or that you’re fucked. All the moves and choices you’ve made have reached their end game and now it’s time to sit back and watch the results. This can be oddly beautiful if you’re winning or rage inducing sadness if you’ve lost. In either outcome you see the effects of power. When you win that power is kind of addicting, you revel in it. In Monarchs we highlight this feeling and jack it up into some epic sic-fi. Leadership has become a game to most when it really shouldn’t be, this is what we want to explore.
FP: I’m not the biggest gamer but my art in general I feel has a lot of game influence ’cause I love game art to death. Specially the Capcom and Square Enix stuff from the 90’s. Th energy those characters and designs have has always been an inspiration. So I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff in there from that.
GP: So tell me a bit about the characters of the comic. Who will we find within and when it came to their look and design, how was that split between you two?
FP: Alan gave me all the freedom in the world when it came to designing the world and characters. It’s been a pleasure to work on this book. He just lets me do my thing and comments on what he thinks works or makes small notes about anything that he thinks might work better. Though if I’m being honest most of his comments are “This is awesome!” which makes me feel very warm and fuzzy inside.
ACM: Our cast contains three ‘archetypes’ of leadership and one wild card, our cover might give away who the wild card is…or does it? We wanted to play with the usual tropes of a leader and genius. We have Hakim, he’s more of the usual go-to sci-fi genius where as Shaunda and Brigitte are both very different, especially when you compare them with what Sci-Fi has told us about geniuses and leaders, Ozzy most of all. I always say my stories involve outlandish scenarios with real people in the middle of it all, Monarchs exemplifies that I feel. You’re witnessing four high level scientists who have never had real family, who in fact, have removed themselves completely from the idea of family act like, well, family. All while trying to complete an almost impossible task in the name of progress.
GP: How long have you two been working on this series and what was the process like between you two coming up with the characters and world?
ACM: Since June… We think, it was hot outside, and we’ve been rolling ever since. It’s always a pleasure when you land a creative team that just gets it right off the bat, Fernando and I have yet to really disagree on anything which has been nice. I try to make sure the creative environment in my projects has a real team effort, sand box feel to it. With Fernando it’s been nothing less of pleasure, he slam dunks my alley oops and really brings them to life. Every so often we meet on Skype to iron out specific details and goals and I’m constantly annoying him with texts, be that of our project or just some gifs. Triona Farrell, our colorist, has brought so much to the table as well, her colors are just awesome every time, its like getting two sets of present each time this team puts in new work. We ask everyone on the team what they like, what they don’t like and make sure everyone has their say. Micah Myers our letterer who I always compare to having a shut out closer in your bullpen, he always packages it all together.
FP: Yeah, June is when we started. Alan contacted me online around April and, as it goes with most Catfish scenarios, we stroke up a (working) relationship. I’m actually a 67 year old woman from the Ukraine. Sorry you had to find out this way, dude
After I turn in my pages, Triona and Micah make them look waaaaaay better than they actually are. Those dudes are awesome
GP: I want to focus on the world and character building a bit. It’s clearly a team process but what was that like? Was there multiple iterations? How did you come up with the specific characters and their looks?
ACM: When coming up with characters I take what I like most from people and what I hate the most from people, and make some crazy love childs in between. With the world aspect, its about the same, for instance nature plays a big part into our story. On Vida you can find anything, from your more traditional resource to your very non-traditional resource. For me its the part of Sci-Fi many people seem to forget, it can be fun! We have plants that can turn into fire depending on how you use them, we have massive castle on a beach (we’ll let you guess what it’s made out of) that serves an actual powerful fortress, basically, we had fun creating our world. Our characters have faces you don’t often see associated with their roles in most stories. In our story there are four empires, these four have very different ways of running things and we wanted them to look the part. Plus we also really wanted to have space samurais fight space marines, did we mention we have those? We do. They’re pretty awesome.
FP: Alan is really open to ideas and concepts. Once I get the descriptions I’ll throw a couple sketches his way and we’ll take it from there. I usually get a visual in my head and go from that. Seems we seem to be in the same page design wise with Alan, it’s been a really smooth ride.
GP: “Our characters have faces you don’t often see associated with their roles in most stories.” I take it you mean gender or their race? How do you decide on stuff like that as a creator?
FP: I think it comes to representation. I love comics and movies but a lot of times there’s a lot missing culture wise of the types of characters that star in commercial stories. Both of us being Latinos and the story is about the building of a new civilization. I think we’re trying to do our part to broaden that without being preachy about it.
GP: Does their ethnicity impact the character at all? And I should add how did that impact the look?
ACM: Yeah that’s one way to describe it but for me it’s more about what they represent. Our leads originally were born in different parts of the world before being brought together at a very young age. None of them have lived with culture or a society, our characters have been trained since birth to be leaders everything they know about culture and society, they’ve been taught. For me as a writer my job is to represent their backgrounds in a natural, and fluid way. I like my characters to make their mark and for that I like to mix things up, I by no means am trying to prove something more than I’m just trying to tell a good story.
A character’s ethnicity should always be considered in the creative process but it all depends on what the story is asking for. Our characters are archetypes in humanity’s way of leading. They can be anyone from anywhere, it just happens that Hakim is man of color as Shaunda is a woman of color, but that’s not why they exist, they both play a much bigger role than that. This will be my third project in and one thing you can see from my work is I have characters from all different parts of life and different looks but I always stress I am just telling stories. I want my storytelling to be as natural as possible and for that reason they reflect the world I’ve lived in. I’ve grown up in the tri-state area my whole life with a Dominican mother who’s been working in American business since Reagan, she’s the only hero I have and a constant source of inspiration. It’s the upbringing I try to reflect in my work, it just happens to be that for some it can be a shock.
GP: When it comes to this world, how much of it is mapped out? Is there some guide book somewhere?
ACM: Maybe for a trade we’ll go all inside the cover of a Lord of the Rings book with a map, maybe a for table top as well? Fernando is already hating where this is all going. That said, story wise Vida’s geography plays a huge role, without spoiling too much the natural challenges of Vida itself present a much bigger problem to our leaders than they originally thought it would. It makes for some exciting pages to say the least and again, nature is a big component of our story.
FP: As for the mapping, it all loves in Alan’s brain, I got a general Idea of where it is all going but I get surprised every time I get a script from this kid. He’s good at keeping me on my toes. After I’m done, Triona makes it all look lush and alive with her magic color powers.
GP: Interesting on the nature aspect. Have you come up with the ecosystem and “rules” of this world?
ACM: Our leaders learned everything they needed to know about Vida from their Ever-guide, at the end of each issue we’ll ‘pages’ from the Ever-guide for our readers to enjoy. There you’ll learn how the Senties are made, how Vida exists, and a bunch of other cool stuff. We took inspiration from game design on how our tech looks and works, the world building on this book has been a blast.
FP: As for the eco system, let’s just say that progress does not come without its price. We won’t go all “Mother” on you but there’s some pretty earth shattering stuff coming as the series progresses. Both my arm and tablet will be very tired after all this.
GP: This sounds very cool. Can’t wait to read it!