Interview Spotlight: No Mercy with Alex De Campi, Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee

Welcome Everyone we are here to talk about the series No Mercy so far issues #1-4 have been released with a trade paperback collecting the issues available here. The...
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Welcome Everyone we are here to talk about the series No Mercy so far issues #1-4 have been released with a trade paperback collecting the issues available here. The Geeked Gods got the chance to talk to Alex De Campi, Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee the team behind No Mercy:  The next chapter in the series, Issue #5 comes out on December 9th…  Go pick it up, this will be your new favorite series.

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GG-So first question, how did the plot come together for this story? Where there experiences in your lives that aided in the creation of this story?

ADC-I’m somewhat broken as a comics creator, because instead of thinking about huge high-concept stuff involving superpowers and aliens and secret government agencies, I just like to throw characters at each other in a room. Or keep picking at the scab of an idea, like “if this bad thing happens, then what? and then what? and then–?”. I’ve spent a lot of my life outside the US, and so much of my work is about being a foreigner; not belonging. I’ve been those obnoxious kids. (I’ve nearly died, too). And I’m fascinated by the nature of tragedy: how fast it happens; how irrevocable it is; and how comics never adequately deal with the consequences of the actions they present. Stir that together, add some emoji, and you’ve got No Mercy.

 

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GG-The series focuses on terror that is real rather than supernatural, when reading you feel as though this situation could occur in real life, how has that process been creating the real terrors that these kids face? How do these real terrors differ from creating supernatural terrors? Artistically what is the design process like creating these real terrors?

ADC- I think there’s a virtue in simplicity. Why bring in the supernatural if you don’t need it? In any case, there’s no real fancy “process” that goes on; just a rhythm of ratcheting up then releasing tension, and setting up events and conflicts that will occur later in the book. The casualness of the brutality is probably what makes No Mercy feel unique, as well as (of course) that any of this could really happen.

 

CSM- My style helps in making this work. Because my approach to character design is a little closer to the cartoony side than the realistic side, the characters seem warm and friendly even when they’re not, and this is disarming. People don’t expect a pretty girl to be covered in flies that are looking for a good place to lay eggs. This fits well with these kids’ expectations, that nothing really bad will happen to them as long as they can still play Angry Candy or whatever they’re into.

No Mercy Diversity

GG-The Children in the story have a diverse array of personalities without falling into typical cliques how did the design process evolve for these characters? Do you think that these teens represent teenagers today? How did everyone get in the mindset of these teenagers?

ADC-I gave all the kids a fairly distinct speech pattern / accent, so it is easy to slip into their “character”. I hate it when lazy people write stupid cliquey teens. Give teens more credit, people… even if they’re really into something (like Anthony into Metal music), they’re so much more than just that one interest.

CSM- They may not represent all teenagers today, but they represent certain elements. They’re mostly pretty sheltered, they’re mostly pretty comfortable. That’s just on the surface, though; Lily describes the lot of them in the first issue as driven overachievers, and we haven’t seen much of the super focus they can bring to bear on a problem, mainly because they’re so out of their depth– but we will. There are also kids in this group who aren’t fragile little teacups, and we’ll see plenty more of that.

No Mercy Three

 

GG-In reading Issues 1-4, none of the kids reacted to the adults/guardians being dead is that due to shock? Also these kids seem oblivious and focused on room service, internet and not the dire straits they are in and at the end of Issue #4 things just seem to get worse for these teens, do these teens understand the danger they are in and will these teens get internet again…?

ADC-They’re all exhausted; in shock. They didn’t know the guardians well — hell, they barely knew each other. And remember that Ines is still alive, so there *is* an adult/parental figure. I find when terrible things happen, you tend to focus on trivial stuff because it helps you stay sane. And I’d say they’ve all had a moment in the book where they have confronted the gravity of their situation. It’s not that they aren’t aware of it. It’s just that, having confronted it, they’re trying to carry on the best way they know how.

CSM- People seize on comforts in stress situations. They were definitely in shock. They also weren’t really attached to their minders from Princeton, I think, hadn’t yet had the bonding experiences that they might have had while building the school and houses that were the purpose of the journey. Their Team Building Experiences have gone in rather different ways to what they expected.

A couple of ’em will get internet again, and, oddly, it will not solve their problems.

 

GG-It seems that each character seems to be hiding something from each other? Will these secrets impact the group negatively and will we be learning about each individual’s secrets?

ADC- It’s not that kids are hiding things from each other. It’s just that a lot of personal stuff doesn’t come up in conversations with near-strangers. Sometimes you don’t learn important details of your friends’ lives for years, much less in the middle of a crisis. Of course the kids’ more hidden aspects will have impact. Of course we will gradually learn about them.

CSM- Naw. Secrets are good. If we all knew everyone’s secrets, where would the mystery of life be?

 GG-It seems friendships are being developed however some people are calling others out i.e. Basic bitch and the twins, will these terrors strain the group or force them to become closer together?

ADC- Yes and yes, but not always to the same people.

CSM- Some of the kids will run away from that kind of thing, and it’ll be great for them. Others will run away from social conflict and it’ll be ghastly. Gina in particular will have a vivid experience trying to pierce the veil of the spiritual. Travis will find a spirit animal he wasn’t even looking for. Charlene already knows what’s inside her.

Tiffani… well, Tiff is going over the bumps, yeah.

 No Mercy Kids

GG-How did the idea of featuring the living students on the inside cover of the issues come about?

ADC- Simple: we have a lot of characters, and I’m too lazy to do recap pages / make sure everyone’s name gets mentioned in the first five pages. So, convenient still-alive-kid reference!

CSM- With an ensemble cast, it’s common to keep a “who’s who” list in the front of the book. Putting “bingo!” crosses over the dead ones seemed natural. Though we did have some fun with that.

 

GG-I noticed at the end of the issues there is an Emoji Recap, What are some of your favorite emoji’s and are there any emoji’s that you are hoping get created?

ADC- There needs to be a mic drop emoji! *looks at phone* apparently my favourite emoji are thumbs-up, poop, music, OK, fire, sparkle hearts, and 100.

JML- Actually, I wasn’t very familiar with the wide world of emoji and all their flavors until working on this book. And still use them sparingly

CSM- I miss Gmail’s old poo emoji. It had flies rapidly circling it. The new one isn’t half so funny. 

GG-The art work and colors are so intense and brilliant I feel like I am in Central America. How is that collaborative process done between all of you? How much research was done on Central America to get the look just right? The detail of the illustrations and colors is amazing how long does this process take for the book?

JML- For my part, the colors, I started with base palette taken from desert and tropical flora and took further inspiration from the textiles of the region, especialy for color combinations.

CSM- Alex has the experience in countries with this set of landforms, climate, and life. She has a better idea of what kinds of towns and cities and middle-of-nowheres that need to be here in order to depict the mass of ordinary people just living their ordinary lives, not always as separate from dangerous and deadly people as we would all prefer to be. She tells me which part of the Altiplano things are taking place in, and from there it’s a whole lot of visual research. Houses, roads, buses– decorated buses are the best things ever. I got to make reference to one of my favorite newspaper strips, Gus Arriola’s GORDO. Gordo’s tour bus was called “Halley’s Comet” as well. Seemed very apt.

How long does it take; usually a week, maybe a week and a half for pencils, which I then send to Alex and everybody for approvals and feedback. Then maybe a week and a half for inks, depending. Some issues take more time due to research or crowd scenes or lots of atmosphere. The cover usually takes two days. After that it’s on to color.

 

GG-You all have collaborated on projects prior to No Mercy, how has this process differed from the other projects you have done, have you learned anything new about each other because of this project? How has your relationship with each other evolved with this project?

ADC- I think the previous projects (Ashes, and My Little Pony) got us warmed up to working together. Our process is very share-y. Carla pencils the rough dialogue in, and tweaks it, and I letter from her pencilled dialogue and never look at my script again. Jen consults on graphic design and scripts. We all have each other’s back, and we’re genuinely working to make the book great with no fussiness about whose idea gets implemented…. this is rarer than you’d think in comics.

JML-Collaboration starts right when Alex shares her script for an issue. Naturally I get many of my coloring cues from the script, but even more from the conversation that starts between the three of us.  Off-hand comments and thoughts from Alex and Carla help guide what impact the color should make on a scene or situation. I then depend on Alex’s and Carla’s reactions to my coloring to see if I hit my mark or not.

As for time, that’s hard to pinpoint exactly as I’m working each issue of No Mercy in with other work. My best guess is that each page takes me an average of three hours to complete from formatting and cleaning up Carla’s raw scans to delivering it to Alex for lettering. Some pages go quicker, some take longer.

CSM- The process is basically the same; we’ve gotten more comfortable with each other. The three of us are all writers, so we round-robin sometimes. I get to play with dialogue as I pencil, rephrasing a thing or two here, like an actor ad-libbing. Alex letters at the end of the process, so she has total control of what the characters end  up saying or screaming, and she makes all the emoji do what they do. Jenn’s contribution to the whole thing is enormous. We have this jazz band sort of relationship, handing things off and then back.

 

GG-What set Image apart from other comic book publishers that you could’ve published with?

ADC- They’re really fabulous in so many ways. You get a TON of marketing and retail-network support at Image, which is something most people don’t think about. And the design/production department is great too. Basically, everyone there is super friendly and helpful and always there if you have questions, or The Fear, or anything else. Also, I like knowing when my FOC is, and how many books I sell every month, and believe it or not NO other publisher is prompt with that info. Also also, Eric Stephenson has a commitment to and understanding of “real-world” books like mine that might not connect with other publishers, because there’s no crazy high concept.

JML- As Alex says, super friendly. And organized! I do like how easy it is to talk directly with each department and get exactly the answers and support you need. There are no dumb questions and great transparency.

CSM- They said yes? They’ve been wonderful to work with, but for starters, they said yes.

 

GG-What advice would you give your younger self if you could talk to them now?

ADC- Don’t get married.

JML- Start saving now.

CSM- Travel more. Take more chances. I wouldn’t have had a cell phone, mind you, but I didn’t really get out enough.

 

GG-What advice if any would you give comic book writers and artists about pursing Creator owner books?

ADC- Write every book like your last, because it probably will be.  Don’t waste time writing bullshit.

JML- Tell the story that you want to, not what you think other people will want. If you don’t believe in it, chances are no one else will either.

CSM- They’re terrific. Going back to the jazz band analogy, we’ve all always got to be looking for the next gig; will this one be better money, will this one be more visibility? Will this one drive me crazy? Short-term crazy or long-term crazy? How much time have I got to devote to a project of the heart? Seek balance, but build.

 GG-Issue #5 of No Mercy comes out Via Image on December 9th. What can the readers look forward to?

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ADC- Misunderstandings. Mayhem. Maiming

JML- A greater use of the color red.

CSM- Thrills, chills. Sudden death. Not so sudden death. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… storming the castle, all the good stuff.

 

 GG-Is anything else that you all would like to tell the readers about?

ADC- You can find me on most social media as @alexdecampi, and if you like No Mercy you may want to pick up my Dark Horse books: Archie vs Predator and Grindhouse. I also have a fantasy thriller on Comixology called Valentine.

JML- Besides coloring just about everything Carla draws, I do a long running webcomic called Dicebox, which can be found at Dicebox.net. From there you can find my various footholds on the internet.

CSM- My own book, FINDER, has returned to the pages of DARK HORSE PRESENTS as of the November issue. Subtitled CHASE THE LADY, it might be easiest explained as a science-fiction DOWNTON ABBEY story. Also, I’m drawing issue #9 of Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s HARROW COUNTY, and I am loving it! So macabre.

Special Thanks to Alex De Campi, Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee for their time and pick up one of the best comics out there No Mercy

Also remember pick up No Mercy Issue #5 at your local comic shop or on Imagecomics.com

Also special thanks to @4thworldcomics for always having great comics in stock

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