With the release this week of BOOM! Studios‘ Hypernaturals Vol. 1, we were lucky to get a director’s commentary directly from the creators themselves, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning!
Hey, everyone! This is Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, writers and creators of Boom! Studio’s epic cosmic superhero extravaganza, the Hypernaturals! From the feedback we’ve been getting over the run so far, you’ve been really enjoying the world – or should that be universe? – we’ve been building. As we approach the publication of the first trade paperback collection (an excellent opportunity to catch up if you’ve missed anything, hint! hint!), we thought we’d provide a little “director’s commentary’ on some highlights from the first couple of issues! Let’s go!
Free Comicbook Day Issue #0
Dan: Our issue “zero” was a Free Comic Book Day exclusive, but we’re delighted that it’s going to be collected along with the opening issue in the first trade. We didn’t just want it to be a sneak preview of issue one, we wanted it to be a proper issue in it’s own right. That called for a careful balance – it had to be a satisfying read all by itself, and a good primer for the series, but not SO essential that the actual first issue didn’t make sense without it (in case people missed the FCBD issue).
Andy: Exactly. When BOOM gave us the opportunity to write the FCBD issue we decided to use it to tell a prologue story: a sort of ‘pre credits sequence’ that introduces the world and the main characters. We also used this issue to establish the graphic look for subsequent issues- specifically the use of two artists, the Q-Data recap page, Fake Ad pages, and the use of text pieces like fake magazine article.
We are both big fans of Keith Giffen’s ‘5 years later’ Legion of Superheroes series as well as (who isn’t?!) Give me Liberty and Watchmen, and all these comics used text material and fake articles and ads to flesh out and develop the world and universe the stories were set in.
Dan: We decided early on to use the same device as a way to use a lot of the background material we were generating while we developed the series.
With every new script we produce a lot of extra ‘world building’ material, it’s part of the fun and challenge of creating your own comic universe from scratch. Each script is accompanied by a separate picture reference document to help the artist understand what we’re rambling on about, as well as a ‘text extras’ document.
Andy: this is the first time we see the Q-Data Link which we use every issue as a sneaky recap/introduction page. It also gives us a chance to add extra ‘color’ to the Quantinuum universe with newsflow items featuring items from the latest episodes of AI Law to weather reports from across the universe. As you can see the awesome design team at BOOM realised our sketch brilliantly. The page is meant to be a representation an interactive holo-feed interface between an individual and the Quantinuum.
Dan: Every citizen of the Quantinuum – which is the name of the galaxy-spanning human culture in this series – has a direct, personal link to the god-like Quantinuum AI which runs the culture for the benefit of all mankind. That link, the “Q-data” appears as a small holographic logo that floats along with the person wherever they go and is an instant access to news, data and communication. The indent top left is what the 3D logo looks like.
Andy: This is the first ad we thought of based around the fantastic artwork Phil Noto drew as one of the alternate covers for issue #1. Gauss is the Quantinuum’s version of Hugo Boss or Calvin Klein- the ad was meant to have the look of a fashion shot: minimum and elegant, and the designers really pulled it off.
Dan: The word ‘trip’ in the slogan is a reference to the Qauntum Trip network, an interstellar teleportation system that allows the citizens of the Quantinuum to step instantly from world to world. Pay attention, because tripping will become increasingly important to the story.
Andy: there are still spaceships in the Hypernaturals universe – space travel is basically a much slower and cheaper form of travel. Think of it as a two-tier system. Passengers in the world today fly rapid trans-atlantic or coast to coast in an airliner, but bulk freight goes more slowly in cargo ships or railroad because it’s more cost efficient.
Dan: This faked up article from ‘Cosmopolis’ magazine is another fine example of how the brilliant design team at BOOM make our scribbled rough look really cool.
Andy: It gave us a chance to flesh out the character of Magnetar and give some extra information on the ill-fated Centennial team, who only really appear in the FCBD issue, without clogging up the flow of the strip pages.
Dan: The backup pages basically become expositional short-hand to help us manage the scale of the new stuff we’re bringing to the reader, without making the narrative slow and overloaded. Similarly, the in-story Q-data captions are also short-hand “primer” notes for the reader. We literally label things like items of technology, characters, or even hyperpowers and their effects, rather than having clunky “As you know, team-mate of mine I’ve worked with for fifteen years, my superspeed hyperpowers take a huge calorific toll on me, etc etc” type dialogue. No one wants that.
Andy: We’ve been really fortunate to have some fantastic cover artists: Trev Harsine, Phil Noto, Tim Green, Wes Craig, Fransceo Mattina and the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz.
Dan: I think the spectacular and diverse range of covers reflects the growing complexity of the Hypernaturals universe. It’s not a place restricted to the stylistic viewpoint of one artist. It can happily stand many powerful interpretations.
Andy: Early on we were lucky to have awesome artist Brad Walker come on board to design the characters and costumes for the Hypernaturals as well as draw some of the FCBD issue. Unfortunately, Brad’s schedule was such that he couldn’t commit to draw an entire issue, so we came up with a way to have him involved for the first few issues. We decide on a 6 page prologue sequence in each issue which would deal with some aspect of the previous iterations of the team. This gave us the opportunity to have Brad draw some issues while his schedule allowed as well as offering us a chance to delve further into the team’s history and introduce characters from the past and situations that have or will have an effect on the current team’s dilemma.
Dan: What was a pragmatic solution to a scheduling conflict actually became a neat creative device that gives the story extra dimension and the series a distinct look.
Once again, we’ve been blessed with the art as, when Brad’s schedule got too crowded, Andreas Guinaldo (who handled the ‘now’ sequences on issue #1) took over as prologue artist and the uber-talented and machine-like, Tom Derenick (who split the art with Brad on the FCBD issue) took over the main art chores.
Andy: The opening sequence to issue #1 not only gave us a cool action sequence and shows another version of the team with a new character (Shard), it also introduced Sublime, the team’s arch nemesis or the first time – establishing him as a major threat and adding extra mystery and tension to the ‘now’ part of the story as his involvement with the missing team becomes clear.
Dan: We love the breakneck pace of this opening, and the fact you catch up with the who’s and what’s and why’s as we blast through it.
Andy: Love this page by Andreas as it really establishes how far Clone 45 has fallen, especially cutting from him in his prime in the previous sequence.
From the script: ‘FULL PAGE SPLASH.
Cut to Clone 45 waking up in his tiny, squalid, capsule-like apartment. The place is a mess, bottles everywhere, food containers, clothes strewn everywhere. The bed is next to the cubicle that serves as toilet and shower. The kitchen area is a hob and work top that pulls down from the ceiling, with a small sink set into a corner and the bed folds back into the wall. Oh, and 45 has a hovering Q logo (pretty much everyone should have one).
It’s a tiny, space with a window that looks out (from a very high level) across a dirty, dark, Tokyo-meets-Blade Runner city, where it’s filthy and constantly raining. Clone 45 is not in costume. He’s unshaven and hungover. He could also be upside down in this shot – at a really odd angle to us. He is not happy to be waking.’
Dan: More establishing stuff on Clone 45 to show that life post Hypernaturals is not a bed of roses – in fact in 45’s case, his life has spiraled into a series of menial jobs that are too low even for a droid to undertake on backwater worlds. It’s only later in the series that we reveal he’s not just a drunken bum and there’s more to his decline than post-fame fatigue.
Andy: This page again shows the use of the ubiquitous Q-Data icons that float around every character’s head – showing their link to the Q data-sphere which feeds them information as well as acting as their PDA. Here, it also makes for a good, techy-seque into the press conference scene that follows. We cut THROUGH the hyperlink…
Andy: …and end up in Hypernaturals headquarters in San Diego. Why San Diego? Kinda of because it’s the spiritual home of comics, US Comics especially, and it was great to sit launching the book at ComiCon and feel we were on location.
Dan: Note that there are no aliens in The Hypernaturals. The humans of the Quantinuum have never made contact with any sentient alien races… ever (though everything up to large animal forms have been discovered on alien worlds). We wanted this to be a significant part of the Hypernaturals Universe – no alien races. Alien life, but no other cultures. The alien looking dudes in the press gang are just humans who have had body-morphs, grafts, mutations or other body-modifying augmentation. In this future you can be – thanks to Quantinuum technology – anything or anyone you want to be… for cosmetic or environmental reasons.
Andy: The lack of sentient alien cultures may be a plot thread. Or a red herring. Or both :)