Tag Archives: inhiatus studios

Review: Shards Volume 2

When it comes to comics it is rare to find anything original anymore. Most feel like derivatives of another, some more obvious than others. As most creators are fans first, as they come into the field, hoping to create something as inspirational as the works they read. For me personally, I have always been inspired by the likes of Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman, as well as Ed Brubaker, as their ability to reinvent or even remix those tropes and commonly told tales to something magnificent, is truly awe inspiring. The same could be said or many of the men and women who started the houses of Marvel and DC.

As Chris Claremont’s imprint on the X-Men brand can still be felt to today’s comics and who would have though that the last time he worked on the book, not too many people have ever heard of characters like Wolverine and Magneto, fast forward to today, and they are synonymous with popular culture. The same can be said Alan Moore, whose reach into Swamp Thing, is still the character’s most redefining work, and has been as the gold standard of how to write a character exploration. Rarely, do newcomers possess this gravitas when they first start in comics, as it usually comes with time and experience. One such group at Inhiatus Studios, have not only bucked that trend but are setting new standards as they create new material, as they prove in their second major collections, Shards Volume Two.

In “Cache”, in a world where humans and and robots look alike, we meet a young man wakes up not knowing who he is, where he is and what happened to him, finds help from a bartender, as they fight off smugglers and those who think our hero is more than meets the eye.  In “Bob and Weave”, we meet two friends and learnt their origin story, as their relationship is more complicated than it looks. In “Perilous”, a young man finds out he is an angel, as he gets recruited in a war between werewolves and angels. In “Be A Man, Man”, we follow a prison guard as he goes on his day at work and finds some semblance of normality at home. In “The Dragon’s Kin”, an indentured servant finally gets her freedom but may have lost a love that she never knew she wanted. Lastly, in “Flipside”,we follow a young couple formt he first time they met to possibly their last?

Overall, it’s a masterful collection of stories that are both personal and fantastical at the same time leaving readers with both a sense of awe at times and lightheartedness at times. The stories by the creators are pleasurable, action packed, well developed in story and characters and definitely written for comic book fans. The art by the creators is gorgeous and vivid. Altogether, the stories told in this collection feel fresh, familiar and most importantly, fun.

Story: Benjamin Langston, Andy Niggles, Gabriel Peralta, Danielle Rueda, Digo Salazar, Curtis Slow
Art: Auskey, Don Ellis Aguillo, Bianca Lesaca, Digo Salazar, Liliana Vazquez-Song, Andrea Vidrine, Tristan Yuvienco
Story: Don Ellis Aguillo, Kimberly Moss, Matthew Ng, Pip Reyes, Raf Salazar
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Strays #1

As a parent, it is easy to forget, how it is being a child. We forget the innocence we had of the world and how idealistic our ideas were until reality changed that. As parents, we also forget that our children also must forge their own way in this world, even when it seems that they are defying us. Many times, throughout fiction, this struggle between parent and child has been dramatized.

One of the more famous examples in comics, and as of recent in movies, the relationship between Odin and hi sons, Thor and Loki, throughout the Marvel universes. One of the lesser explored and short lived, in the Star Wars movies, is the one between Qui Gon Jinn and Ob Wan Kenobi. In the debut issue of Strays, we meet a young princess who lives in the shadow of her parents but soon blazes her own path.

We are taken to the kingdom of Cathay, where a young princess is being taken to the royal court, where she is to be presented to the prince of Kingdom, an idea she fights with righteous indignation. Soon her handmaid reminds her of the stakes that these nuptials mean for both kingdoms. As the ceremony commences, an ambush from the shadows threatens the royal court and the princess. The comic focuses on the princesses future and forging her own path.

Overall, an engaging debut issue that takes the reader on what they think is a typical marriage but becomes something even more despairing for both kingdoms. The story by Matthew Ng is funny, engaging and provides twists where the reader was not expecting any. The art by Matthew Ng is alluring and vivid. Altogether, a beautiful beginning to what looks to be an epic adventure.

Story: Matthew Ng Art: Matthew Ng
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Rise #1

What the show Game Of Thrones get so well is how treacherous ruling a kingdom is. Many times, throughout literature, tv shows ad movies that take place during medieval times, rarely do they get into the turmoil of usurpers and bureaucrats nipping at the heels at the ruler, only to slit their throat the first chance they get. This even worse when rulers are of an age where they would normally not be in power, which makes life even more perilous as they are going against everything they had been thought up to that point and occupying stations which they only envision themselves years later.

This why in the latest season of Game of Thrones many fans became enamored with Liana Mormont, as she was as daunting a ruler, as any in the show, and this was despite her age. She is not an anomaly, not only in literature but also in history, as young rulers tend to become either pawns or masters of their own destiny. The first one I knew of, growing up is Pu-Yi, the child emperor of China and the subject of the film, The Last Emperor. In Don Aguillo’s brilliant Rise, we find one such sovereign, who has been charged to rule a kingdom, one she does not know, soon after her parents’ disappearance.

An assassin looking for the queen Zakaiah, enters the temple near her ancestral home and kingdom, Pacifica, where Duncan, a priest leading her band through site meets his fate. We meet her band of guides, as they find out what jus happened and what that they mean for her monarchy, as they strategize on what to do next, while the interim royal court looks to make their own play for the throne. As Zak, Lucas, Senka, and Frix , get closer to a temple for sanctuary, they run into a soul stealing monster along their path. By issue’s end, they reach the temple and where they soon find about the casualties that occurred due to the threat to the throne and, they may have found a new ally.

Overall, an engaging and sweeping first issue, that feels like a roller coaster with all the action happening across these few pages. The story by Aguillo is dense, engaging, and pulls no punches. The art by Aguillo looks like matte paintings and is very much soulful. Altogether, a powerhouse debut issue for a story that will revamp the medieval fantasy genre.

Story: Don Aguillo Art: Don Aguillo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

InHiatus Studios’ Mathew Ng Shows Us Some Strays

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming comics publisher, InHiatus Studios,  which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators. This interview was with Mathew Ng, who works on the books, Strays. Below is a brief back ground on the book and my interview with Mathew, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him.

Strays begins with a runaway princess, who drags her unlikely companions into the adventure of a lifetime. Iroha, the first princess of Izumo, is caught in a massive conspiracy threatening to disrupt the delicate balance of power sustaining the trade route, the Silk Road. Bound together for their own reasons, the group makes their way across the world and back, with trouble never far behind.

 

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Mathew Ng: I didn’t have too many comics growing up. Among the InHiatus Studios, I’m probably the least familiar with American comics haha. There was a run on Batman known as KnightFall where Jean Paul Valley takes over for Bruce Wayne. My cousin was reading Batman at the time, and I went to his house to read, so I got really into that arc of Batman all the way till Azrael.

If you want to talk about manga, that’s a whole other story though!

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

MN: Chuck Dixon and Jo Duffy come to mind… yeah it’s the two main writers for Knightfall.

Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

Personally I hold the opinion that 90% of your influences should come from outside the medium you’re working in. Film and photography is definitely a big one, but that probably comes from my preference for manga.

For Strays, my interest in history and mythologies definitely come into play a lot. My snootiness about food makes me pay attention to what my characters would be eating. I also am using techniques found in the Horse Bench form from Choy Li Fut, in a bar fight scene I’m planning for volume 2.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, the more information you can personally draw from, the better your stories will be.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

MN: My parents do have a big influence on my work. Strays is literally an adventure story that travels between the east and west.

We don’t really talk about what I want to do. My parents are “talk is cheap” people. You can talk about doing something all day and it’s not worth a damn. Go do it, and if it makes money, keep doing it.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

MN: Like so many others, by writing a failed screen play!

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

MN: I still don’t honestly haha. I think it’s cartoonishly simple to think of your current work as a permanent fixture that will never change. Flexibility is really the hallmark of successful creatives. The idea is that the medium isn’t as important as finding a place to be successful using your own skill set. For In Hiatus Studios, comics happened to fit crossroads between our skillset, budget, and potential to grow.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

MN: I was looking for a way to improve my storytelling. My demo reel was just torn apart at a portfolio review at Disney, but the main thing was to take away was that I was technically proficient, but lacked story telling. At the same time Don, Pip, and I were just let off a project that fell apart, and Don contacted both of us after a month to see if we were interested in working together since we had a lot of momentum together at the time.

At that time, we thought about working on a collaborative art book, where we could pull our resources together to make something a little higher quality than what we could afford to do so individually. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that perhaps comics would be the way to go, and here we are.

It may have sounded like I was disparaging comics in my previous answer, but I have nothing but gratitude for the medium and its fans. Writing a story, then drawing it all out has really shown how much we stepped up to finish Shards vol.1. Being at InHiatus studios has really pushed everyone here to grow as artist, and has given us more insight on where we might want to expand beyond comics.

GP: What was your inspiration behind Strays?

MN: A lot of Strays comes from the time I spent playing MMOs.  I never was in a big clan, but the ones I joined were always tightknit wonderful groups. We almost never did meta builds, or fought for high level bosses the “right way” but we all knew how to play what we had, and PK/PvP was always fun. We could conquer castles and steal bosses from larger clans by causing a little PvP chaos, although we’d have to run pretty quickly once that happened.

Even now, I enjoy adventure stories about a group of general screw-ups. Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, Black Lagoon, and Konosuba are all stories I really enjoy.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Strays?

MN: Strays takes places at the height of silk-road trade. I took a page from Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter, and built the world to support multiple kinds of stories. The first arc of Strays is the coming of age story for Iroha. The next arc, I wanted them to engage in a Wolf of Wall Street style campaign resulting in complete disaster. And that would lead to another arc with Ashe as the Prodigal Son.

And for each arc, I want each of my characters to grow. Either in a way that makes them more loved or more hated, I want them to be human in that their experience will change them.  Individually… in MMO terms, Iroha is the buff support that constantly pulls agro, Fatima pays more attention to discord than healing, Ashe is the attack built knight the party forces to play as tank, Lili is the smith that never makes money cause the party needs the extra DD, and Kanade is the DD that the moment she loses a single Hitpoint emergency teleports back to town.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

MN: I mentioned Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, Black Lagoon, and Konosuba already. I read a stupid amounts of manga, but if I were to go back to the one that started it all it would be I”s by Katsura Masakazu.

Seriously if it’s a manga, I’ve probably read at least one tankoban to see if I like it.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

MN: Coming from animation, I treat my panels as story boards. Murata Yuusuke is a master of this. If you line up his panels back to back and play them, it plays out like an animatic for preproduction. And just like illustration you must have the panels with the story beats be the focus of the overall composition. The story is everything, so make sure the readers know what’s happening.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

MN: Never. I really don’t get this idea that I would see myself as one of the characters. I can empathize with the characters as if they were a friend. But a good story should have multiple characters with something you can relate to, but they aren’t you.

If it were character I empathize with the most with, it would be Seto Ichitaka from I”s. When I”s was being written it was 1999, so I was the same age as Ichitaka. The story is a very simple boy crushing on a girl, but it’s written completely from the view of Ichitaka, so a lot of the story is just his mistakes because he’s just a really awkward dumb teenager.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

MN: Zero. Haha seriously it’s zero. I relate to characters through their character, for who they are as individuals… not as a set traits. I can safely say this is true for my audience as well.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

MN: I mean there’s so many… but I don’t know about letting any of them work on Strays.  It’s currently a one man show, and if I decide to stop working on Strays, I’d rather end the series rather than pass it on to anyone else.

If Studio Trigger’s Nakashima Kazuki, or Ufotable’s Sadou Tomonori wanted to buy the rights to Strays and make an animated series, I’d be so down for that haha. But I’d just be handing them the production notes and leaving it at that.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

MN: Sold Out! ‘nuff said.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Strays?

MN: I don’t know how to really respond to this… personally I don’t like dictating expectations to the audience. It’s like the comedian who preps the audience that he’s “funny and get ready to laugh.” You know that guy is going bomb on stage. But definitely stick around if you enjoy car chases, kung-fu action, and bar fights!

GP: When can we expect Strays?

MN: I’m working on it okay?! I hope to have the first chapter out Q1 2018. Yeah I know it’s delayed, but finding that balance between speed and quality is most definitely a struggle.

InHiatus Studios’ Raf Salazar Talks PuG

A few months ago, I got a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators. This interview was with Raf Salazar who works on the book PuG. Check out a brief description of the series below and my interview with Raf, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him:

Three traveling adventurers, a scared sorcerer, a cursed warrior, and a mysterious swordsman, seek the power of a magical relic, the PangenStone. This epic quest follows the haphazard journey of these bumbling heroes as their destinies become entangled in their quest to wield the fabled stone.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Raf Salazar: My top titles growing up were X-Force, X-Men and Spider-Man. X-Force was my introduction to comics. I remember peering over my dad’s shoulder as he flipped through X-Force volume 1 and thinking wow so cool.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

RS: I hate to admit this, but Rob Liefeld was a huge influence growing up. After reading his comics I started drawing his characters. I was a huge fan of Shatter Star, those double bladed swords didn’t make much sense but it did look awesome. Liefeld’s line work was different and it very kinetic. I loved it so much I started applying his designs sense and techniques into my own drawings. All my characters were decked out in dynamic lines, giving them muscles they didn’t even know they had, and pouches and pockets galore.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics that you draw upon in your art?

RS: That would be video games and animation. My favorite part of both those things is the stories they tell and the characters that fill the world.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

RS: My parents grew up in the Philippines and at the time pursuing a career into a creative field like art was just not very practical. However, when they moved to the states they allowed my brothers and I to have the opportunity to explore creative fields.  With their support I found myself drawing and painting every day. So it wasn’t a surprise for them to hear I wanted to pursue visual arts. Of course there was the natural parental hesitation of “can this career support you?” I took that as a challenge and here we are today. As long as I can prove to them I’m eating regularly, they seem fine with how things turned out.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

RS: My brother and I had been reading comics for several years and spent our afternoons just drawing superheroes. It was only natural for us to finally want to see our drawings come to life. Our immediate hope was to animate them, but we obviously didn’t have the resources to animate them, we were like ten. However, what we did have was How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. We studied that book from beginning to end. Read and reread it, and within a couple of weeks we did it. We made a mediocrely drawn, poorly paneled, shallowly written Spider-Man and Venom comic.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

RS: I don’t think I ever knew, it kind of just happened. I think most artists, or creative types, find themselves doing work they love for other people and forgetting to take a break and do it for themselves. Ya know, how it started in the first place. It’s a funny concept, a creative outlet from being creative. It’s what we do to keep sane. My brother and I made a silly comic in high school so I thought it’d be fun to bring it back during my college days. I ended up drawing short comics to amuse myself. Then I started sharing it with my friend Ed and my brother. Then we came together and got a little more serious about these comics. Next thing you know we put out a web comic ReGrBl for all of the internet to enjoy.

GP: What lead you to form In Hiatus Studios?

RS: I was brought into the team as the fourth member. They pitched to me that they wanted create something that could utilize our artistic talents. Then we came to the conclusion of a comic book anthology. And then I said Hell yes.

GP: What was your inspiration behind PuG?

RS: They say write what you know. What I knew was I liked hanging out with my friends playing games. The games I really enjoy playing with them are rpg’s, digital and analog. So I just mashed those two up and came up with PuG. It’s an adventure-fantasy comic about strangers helping each other navigate their own misadventures. I feel like most people could relate to that, well unless you never had friends to play with.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of PuG?

RS: The world of PuG is a world with a dark past, steeped in myth and legend; with cute and monstrous creatures roaming it’s land. Within the lush forests, beyond the ancient city ruins, we follow three unlikely travelers seeking the fabled PangenStone. A stone said to grant unfathomable power.

Mal is a sorcerer with a unique scar on half his face. He hopes to obtain the PangenStone and learns to harness the mysterious power it holds.

Azuron is a warrior who has befallen a bizarre curse. He too seeks the stone to dispel his ailment.

Cassia is a swordsman whose intentions are as mysterious as the PangenStone itself.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

RS: Saga. The artwork by Fiona Staples rocks my socks. If I want to really bum myself out I read Berserk. The dark fantasy by Kentaro Miura is skillfully drawn and wonderfully depressing.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

RS: Color and Composition. Those two things make or break a panel.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

RS: 1991 watching Hook and seeing this brown kid with red in his hair come crashing on screen. They chanted his name, Rufio. Growing up in Virginia as Filipino, this blew my mind.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

RS: It’s 2017. Everyone wants to be represented and that’s fine. I think it’s very important to have representation in comics, but I don’t think it should be done arbitrarily.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

RS: I would love to collaborate with Haruki Murakami. The surrealistic imagery that’s found in his writing would be a challenge, but also very fun to illustrate on a page.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

RS: It’s been great. It’s always so scary to put something like this out there for public viewing. Even though it’s a work of fiction, it’s still apart of me. The fear and vulnerability though has been dispelled with the positive reaction we’ve received.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from PuG?

RS: Expect an action and comedic epic that is filled with twists and turns. The mystery of the magical PangenStone will be explored as well as the pasts of these three travelers, especially Azuron. We’ll explore the nature of his curse and the reason behind it. Along the way the three will encounter other devious characters also seeking the PangenStone.

GP: When can we expect PuG?

RS: The adventure began in Shards volume 1, which we’ve recently sold out. Fear not, a new soft cover run will be available early 2018. Also to be available early 2018, the next issue of PuG! If you want PuG now, the PuG primer is available for your viewing pleasure on our website inhiatusstudios.com.

InHiatus Studios’ Pip Reyes Takes Us on a Longshot

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators,, this interview was with Pip Reyes, who works on the books, Longshot , below is a brief back ground on the book and my interview with Pip, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him:

LONGSHOT follows an aspiring hero, Wardell, as he fights to make a name for himself in the pro-hero sports league: The Pantheon. Wardell was once a top young prospect for the Pantheon, until he lost his arm in a horrific accident during a match. Now, he is fighting hard to get his shot at fulfilling this lifelong dream, and getting out of his own way to do so. This story is about the pursuit of greatness as he tries to make his mark in the League, where heroes battle each other in the world’s most popular sport. Legacies are on the line as he navigates the pressures of being in the spotlight, all the while a dark force challenges the very definition of being a hero.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Pip Reyes: I grew up reading a lot of Justice League and X-Men trades. Whatever my older brother had at the time. Eventually as I got more into anime, I started dabbling in manga for shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball Z. As I reached my teenage/college years I got more into ‘indies’ like Scott Pilgrim, Blankets, and Fables. So I like a little bit of everything, but superhero stuff was my first love.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

PR: I find that there are a number of specific works from Brian K. Vaughn that inspired me over the years. I loved BK Vaughn’s The Runaways for Marvel. I thought it was really cool that he could do something new and fun within the wider, established world of Marvel. I also really liked Pride of Baghdad, an amazing one-shot about lions in Iraq. I read it during a time when I was becoming more aware of the controversies surrounding the war in Iraq and just politics in general, so I found that book very enlightening at the time.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

PR: I come from an animation background so that definitely influences my work a lot. When I say ‘animation’ I mean pre-production and design. So a lot of my work is inspired my production work and visual development for animation/film and my goal is to bring those film-like, cinematic sensibilities to my work in comics.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

PR: My mom was very supportive, for which I am very lucky. I know that’s not usually the case when one wants to pursue art as a career. However, she does often suggest that I try and get a ‘normal’ desk job while I’m still figuring out my art career.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

PR: Working with InHiatus was my first real foray into doing comics. It’s something I’d never done before and was hesitant to do. But it was an opportunity of a lifetime being able to put out my own original story, so I jumped right in.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

PR: I think working in comics is a big part of my career, but one piece in a larger puzzle. My goal is to get my work and my stories out there, and comics is a wonderful way to do just that.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

PR: The dream of putting work out into the world. I had the fortune of working with some talented artists on a previous project and we all had the same hunger to just that. When you find kindred spirits like that who have the same mission, forming a team was the obvious thing to do. Now, we’re living our dream and we want to provide the same opportunity to fledgling creators as well.

GP: What was your inspiration behind “Longshot”?

PR: Longshot is the crossover between the things I’m the most geeky about: superheroes and pro sports. It all started years ago when I was trying to come up with a game concept that took Fantasy Basketball, and used actual fantasy-style art assets. So I started doing concepts for my real life NBA heroes and turned them into D&D-style fantasy archetypes. When presented the opportunity to tell my own story, I took that idea and built a whole new universe out of it, but went in the superhero direction instead. I have always drawn parallels between my sports idols and my favorite superheroes so this was the natural amalgamation of that.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Longshot?

PR: Longshot is about a guy named Wardell whose lifelong dream is to go ‘pro’. This is a world where superpowers are commonplace, and only the most exceptionally powerful get to become ‘pro’ superheroes. He dreams of making it into the Pantheon: the worldwide superhero organization/sports league. The Pantheon League routinely holds ‘training exercises’, which basically pits city-based teams against each other in battle simulations. These battles are televised and have become the world’s most popular professional sport. Wardell doesn’t have the size, strength, or speed that most heroes have, but will fight for a chance to make the league regardless of whether he fits the profile or not.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

PR: I’m currently reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, which I’m really enjoying. I started Deadly Class and have been meaning to catch up on it because I really like the world. Same with Paper Girls. I’m also a HUGE Avatar/Korra fan so I want to read their continuing stories.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

PR: Emotion. Always. If I can somehow relay the emotion of a scene/panel, then I think I’d have done my job. It’s what connects people to stories the most, whether they know it or not. If they feel what the characters are feeling at any given time then I know a connection has been established and hopefully they’ll be invested for the long run.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

PR: That one’s tough because I can’t remember that far back. But I will say reading Harry Potter was one of the first times I felt like I was really IN the story. I was starting high school at the time and everything was so new and overwhelming. To read what Harry was going through while I was going through a crazy, confusing time was extremely cathartic and I felt like I was in that world. By the time the last book came out, I was graduating college. So, in a way, I felt like we grew up together.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

PR: I find it very important and it’s something I pay close attention to when creating my characters. One of my goals is to have a diverse lineup of heroes so that my readers can find one (or more) that they can relate to. Also, I’m hoping they’ll be inspired to cosplay as these characters. That would be really cool.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

PR: There are a number of artists from the entertainment industry whose work I ADORE. Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. Ryan Lang and Helen Chen. Lois Van Baarle. I’m a big Overwatch fan and they have a comic artist working on their stuff who goes by Nesskain. I think his work is really cool.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

PR: I’ve had some very kind interactions regarding Volume 1 and feel extremely grateful and motivated. Thanks to everyone who bought and helped us sell out! People have had nothing but kind words and are generally excited to see what happens next, which is great. For ‘Longshot’ I get the occasional person who recognizes the sports references and that gets me all giddy.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Longshot?

PR: I’m hard at work further building out this universe, so readers can expect a broader, expansive view of this world. I’m talking about hero teams and their cities, their star ‘players’, and hopefully an inspiring story about fighting for your dream.

GP: When can we expect Longshot?

PR: I’m hoping Longshot returns Spring 2018.

InHiatus Studio’s Kim Moss and Don Aguillo Discuss Winter

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming comics publisher, InHiatus Studios,  which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators, this interview was with Kim Moss and Don Aguillo, who work  together on Winter.

A gritty, raw view of the world in the aftermath of Death’s decision to stop fulfilling her duties. Winter explores mankind’s spiral into an apocalyptic immortality; where the only thing that has died is humanity’s hope for survival.

Kim and Don talk about the book, their start in comics, and what drives them.

Graphic Policy: What was your inspiration behind Winter?

Kim Moss: Buffy the Vampire Slayer actually. I wanted to create a strong female lead that struggled against her responsibilities. I have also been intrigued by humans and their rejection of getting old. I have always found that my mortality keeps me grounded, and that death is all part of the experience.

Don Aguillo: For me the inspiration behind the aesthetics of Winter are drawn mostly from the weirder, more “out-there” artists currently in the field. A limited palette is where I’m playing around with influences from Sin City‘s classic visuals in particular, with big color fields and bolder line-work at the forefront of it’s art profile. A lot of what is showing through is my current obsession with work from Chris Bachalo and Mike DelMundo who are both at once celebrated and criticized for their unorthodox but dynamic and beautiful play on paneling and elements of figure drawing as well as treatment of color.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Winter?

KM: Winter is a world in chaos. Death has stopped taking souls, and as a result life has stopped creating. Humanity is slowly losing its sanity as it moves farther and farther from the natural order. This world is also beginning to see a string of demons ripping through the desperate souls that can no longer hold on in this world. Winter tries to escape the haunting presence of her last soul taken through booze and sex. Whereas the other 3 horsemen are stuck in limbo because their jobs just aren’t as much fun when their is no final pay off. Enoch is a devout Catholic exorcist. He traps the escaping demons with militaristic precision.

DA: In my perspective, there’s a chicken and the egg situation happening here: a pervasive darkness has emerged obviously from this huge problem where essentially the grim reaper has checked out, and so we begin to understand what’s at stake. But is the world’s dark crisis a result of Winter’s choices, or are her choices a result of a world that wasn’t worth her commitment to duty and responsibility? Perspectives on life and death, ethics and morals, our responsibility to the people in our lives and how we spend our time are all affected here, and explored by these characters and the situations they’re thrown in. Despite how dark and outlandish the themes, they are all still relevant, especially in this country, chock-full of people constantly distracted by our self-inflicted stress factors, an unstable government, and a profound lack of trust in our leaders and our neighbors. There are threads of gothic horror, science-fiction and historical fiction that run as undercurrents in this story, and you’re really going to feel those influences through how we deal with things like various underground organizations either trying to make sense of this world order or change it, religious inspirations on faith or lack thereof, cultural artifacts and supernatural forces at play.

GP: How have you found working together?

KM: Working with Don has been very interesting. It has been a learning experience in how to write for sequential art. What I love most is how he has taken my story and created this unique ethereal world.

DA: My freelance work has me deal with clients all the time, and back-and-forth between a commissioning authority’s and then my own take is a daily dynamic. On top of that, I’ve known Kim for many years, and it’s just a lot of fun to have an already developed world and cast of characters fall on my lap to then mold into my own interpretation. Kim’s really inquisitive and curious about the visual process of graphic novels (as her previous experience is in prose writing) and is so open about supporting the kinds of exploration I ask of her to draw out this world.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with? What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

KM: People have been really intrigued with Winter. They love the artistic style of the piece, and are excited to see how the world develops.

DA: I think upon first glance, it has really struck people visually with the limited palette and the boldness of color.  It has notes of its influences, but is really starting to come into its own in terms of a distinct style. I myself am both struggling and celebrating in the creation of the shorthand in styling the world and I think they can see the effect of that experimentation.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from “Winter”?

KM: I want them to expect a world in which people discover meaning, and humanity finds its way back to nature.

DA: I think people should expect an exploration of big questions. The human race is in this constant need to create ways to last longer, be better, have an eternal legacy and are always racing ahead to what’s next, but the book explores a world in which none of that matters anymore. What’s money going to do? Will we believe in a higher power?  If the gates are closed to what we originally thought to be some semblance of an afterlife, and there is no end to our time, then how are we going to spend it? The physical space of that is something the two of us have to invent, but the emotional space is something we all can surely explore and probably have to some extent when we question and face our own mortality and the summation of our actions and achievements in our lives.

GP: When can we expect “Winter”?

KM: The first issue of Winter will be here this winter. You like what we did there? Hahaha.

Chatting With Don Aguillo of InHiatus Studios

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators,, the first one being Don Aguillo, who works on two of the books, one of them being Rise , below is a brief background on the book and my interview with Don, about the comic, his start, and what drives him:

Young Queen Zak, inheriting the responsibilities of the long-vacant throne of the kingdom of Pacifica, is guided by a reluctant band of individuals assembled to aid in her survival on the path to assume the mantle of queen, as a long-orchestrated struggle for power back home and a road ahead haunted by supernatural forces threaten her ascension to the throne.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Don Aguillo: I grew up reading Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. Those were my go-to, only because they were the first ones that were ever gifted to me. It was only after I started reading that I began understanding just how relevant they were to my life experience and just how much my career and skill-development were going to be influenced by them.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

DA: My original influences were Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Joe Madureira. These artists had really different styles but all influenced my take on figure-drawing and taught me how to bring the study of the comics medium and the conventions established in the industry to my work. Currently, I am absolutely in love with the work of Chris Bachalo, Simone Bianchi, Olivier Coipel, Greg Tocchini, Alex Ross and Mike Del Mundo. These guys are integrating the fundamentals and stylistic variety of traditional art media into the craft to establish this new-old modern aesthetic that helps galvanize comics’ relevance on the greater cultural scene.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

DA: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Francis Ford Coppola was a great film influence on my early painting work, as I was in love by its production design. The gothic beauty mixed with the romance of the period costume and the sickly-sweet color palettes splashed on these beautiful forms influenced by far eastern, medieval and modern aesthetic really moved me. I pull from ideas from my cultural background as a Filipino-American as well as my dance and martial arts experiences in terms of studying figure movement and action.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

DA: I threw a lot at them to keep them on their toes haha. Changing my major from pre-med to art, moving out of the house, leaving home so early, coming out, so many things. They got really used to being surprised by me, that acceptance was a big part of their lives by the point I had already galvanized my choice to follow this career path. But they’re so supportive and wished they knew more about what I’m doing, and it’s just so early in the development of comics as more of a culturaly-accepted medium in literature to be a vehicle for social change, political commentary, documentary, exploration of visual and literary expression that the greater masses don’t really have a good grasp of it yet, aside from what they get from, namely, the movies. My parents, though a part of that, are making great efforts to not only understand, but also enjoy what I do.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

DA: A lot of my early clients when I started out as a freelance artist, where aspiring writers who had comic ideas and needed to run Kickstarter Campaigns to boost production to bring them to life. These were early blessings, where I had people really interested in my work, wanted to pay for it, knew I could use it to practice my craft and use it in my portfolio! Project after project came and before I knew it, I started looking back on all my old comics not just as entertainment, but research material in a much-needed education on panelling, visual storytelling, understanding a shorthand, the essentials and foundations of visual storytelling and time management. And then came they day that I really needed to work on my own piece.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

DA: It’s actually a pretty recent development. It was only when the other company owners and I got together to say “let’s put a book out” that I thought maybe there was something there. But before we knew it, we had evolved into a company, and the rest is history.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

DA: As I said, the original idea was just to get these really creative people to put a book of collected short stories together. As we explored the idea, we realized the scope, a projected future and the profound potential of our concept couldn’t be contained in a single book. It was bigger than that, especially with so many of us working together on it.  We had organized and finalized the company soon after a really successful Kickstarter Campaign to fund the first anthology, realizing that what would result would need to be managed and produced professionally, because it was naturally going to spawn new, bigger projects, which it already has. We’re really busy right now, working on the independent series from the first anthology in individual comic issues (the first of each publishing over the course of the next couple months).

GP: What was your inspiration behind Rise?

DA: I work with a lot of kids, teaching martial arts and cartooning, locally in San Francisco.  In understanding the modern child and the world of responsibility on their shoulders (sometimes of their understanding, but usually not), their busy lives, growing up in such a distracting and noisy world, I can only imagine how fast growing up can be. Rise comes out of my trying to make sense of that, and throwing it into this laboratory of creating a world around that very idea.  I also think any creative work is wholly auto-biographical, and so I’ve rounded out this cast with a string of characters who all embody aspects of myself that I can visit, explore, venerate, punish, and acknowledge through writing them and placing them in situations that support the greater narrative and also help me maybe organize the din of noise in my own head.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Rise?

DA: Queen Zakaiah (at 9) is an orphaned monarch, and inherits the great responsibility of running the Kingdom of Pacifica and caring for its people, in a projected, distant future of northern California, after a string of wars and natural disasters, past the technology age and thrown into an era of magic and supernatural forces. Lucas Balthazar, her guardian, is charged with the duty of guiding her through a set of trials in preparation for the throne, joined by mysterious warrior Senka Priahm, and commoner Frix Atilio. This entourage is thrown into an adventure across the future post-apocalyptic American landscape, threatened by a horde of vampire-like creatures called Soul-Thieves scattered across the land and a mysterious political upheaval in development back at home, both with independent agendas at play. The world will have aspects of the landscape from its glorious past, hinting at artifacts we are familiar with, but mixed in with a jumble of cultural interplay with both how the world had evolved in a millennia, as well as playing with some cultural diversity in influencing the supernatural elements that inhabit this world.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

DA: Low for its beautiful art and story of hope, and Saga for its wit, charm, and characterization, as well as visual simplicity.  Both are from Image.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

DA: Emotion. It can be captured in the pop of color, the quietness of a scene, sparseness in detail, or a contrast with all that surrounds it. I think controlling the emotional journey in the reader through their empathy of characters we write and draw is really powerful. Sounds really manipulative, but it’s the ride the reader has signed on for.  And that’s what makes the work really personal. It’s the biggest challenge, but also the biggest thrill to make that connection with them!

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

DA: Buffy the Vampire Slayer really spoke to me, and  I think it’s the way Joss Whedon realized and spoke through each character that really resonated with me. It’s brilliant, heartbreaking, hopeful, honest, humorous and human, his writing.  As a gay man, the X-Men always resonated with me, but early on, the emotional journey of Jean Grey through the Phoenix Saga and eventually the Dark Phoenix Saga hit me hard and showed me how comics could really understand and be a vehicle for more profound storytelling. It explored a duality in people and to put that kind of power in a female character at the forefront of a huge story was groundbreaking in this medium. I wanted to a be a part of something like that.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

DA: Though being inclusive to everyone is the current hot-button issue these days, I think just being honest and genuine to your own experiences is more important. There is no way for a creator to write from every perspective, but to add something real from their own world is enough of a contribution. I’ve woven my experience with kids and parental figures and being a member of the lgbt into my writing, but it in no way should influence who my target audience is. I think that anyone who picks up this book should find a character to anchor onto, anyone at least, who wants to explore questions about the meaning of our life’s work, the importance of the people in our lives and how much power we all actually have in influencing and creating real change.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

DA: Neil Gaiman, if you’re out there, my life’s wish is to draw for your work at least once, haha. Scott Lobdell was also an early influence in emotional comic book writing, and I would love to work with either of these gentlemen as they were part of my formative years and it would just be an honor.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

DA: Shards Volume One, was a really pleasant surprise, as we went in with no expectations. We knew people out there were really adamant and solid on the big houses and what they already like, and we offered entries that weren’t known and didn’t have a huge reach, but were from the heart. We sold locally through the Bay Area’s network of Comic-Con’s and are going into year two with a huge schedule including some of the bigger events, with our second anthology as well as a second run of our first one and have ridden on this high of new fans really loving and receiving the work.  We’re so happy to just get it out there.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Rise?

DA: Expect a deep influence of horror, fantasy, sword-sorcery and post-apocalypse all at once. Expect an adventure with an ensemble cast that is really trying to understand each other while on this dark road, forming a kind of family we’re all familiar with. Readers are going to be hit with a complex world with a lot of moving parts, indicative of the busy mind it’s coming from (this comic is sort of my therapy, a way of trying to organize and understand my own world) and are going to see that the characters we meet are going to be put through their paces and experience real change by the end of this journey. For better or worse? Time will tell. Not everyone gets to stay, and we’re not all good guys.

GP: When can we expect Rise?

DA: Rise Issue 1 comes out this December! Issue 2 is under production and should be out by March, projected as of right now. But go out and get Shards Volume One Trade to get Issue 0 which shows how they set out on this adventure! Thanks so much!