By Ashish Thomas
@thatguyash1018 on Twitter.
We are here to talk about the Series Wayward, we are 10 issues into the Saga there are two TPB’s Wayward Volume One-String Theory and Wayward Volume Two-Ties that bind and the ultimate collected series that has issues 1-10 and extra’s. The Geeked Gods got the chance to talk to Jim Zub, Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain the people behind Wayward: The next chapter in the series Issue 11 comes out on November 18… Go pick it up its going to be great,,,,,,
So first question the series is described as Buffy in Japan… For those who don’t know the book, How did the Book Come about, How did you all find each other and tell the readers about the story and does the Buffy in Japan comparison hold up as you move into this new Arc?
JZ: Wayward is a story about teenagers fighting Japanese mythological monsters on the streets of modern Tokyo. Steve Cummings and I knew each other from working together at the UDON studio several years ago. We’d talked about wanting to team up on a creator-owned book for quite some time and when Steve had a gap in his schedule he approached me about getting something finally started. He wanted to set a story in modern Tokyo to show the depth and breadth of the city and I had an idea for a story about the place mythology has in our modern lives, so those two elements came together and we built what would eventually be called Wayward.
I don’t think Wayward is exactly Buffy, but it’s a good touchstone for people to understand what we’re going for in terms of overall mood and characterization. If someone enjoyed Buffy I think Wayward is a good fit for them, not that we’re just trying to copy the success of Buffy. The further the story goes on the less that Buffy-like the story is (if it ever was) and I think that’ll continue.
SC: Very simply Jim and I had talked a few times about doing something creator owned together and when our schedules finally matched up we began yet another conversation about the possibility. Jim started by asking me about the story behind and illustration I did for the Udon Entertainment artbook Vent (which went on to become the issue 1 cover) and after a few back and forth chats Wayward was born.
If I were to describe Wayward I would say it is ultimately a tale of generational change set among the upheaval of modern isolation that is life in Japan. With monsters and kids with super crazy powers!
The buffy comparison was a very good one for the early issues as the characters were trying to figure out who they fit into all this insanity.
TB: Steve and I had worked on some covers together before Wayward came out. They needed some variant covers, and I worked on several of those before taking over on interiors with issue 4.
The Story focuses on Rori lane a half Irish/half Japanese teenager living in Japan for the first time not knowing she has powers how was the process of creating Rori and having her be an outsider in Japan? What makes her unique as a Main Heroine and how is the process writing this character?
JZ: In the original outline Rori was just one of six teenage characters who made up the team but as I was tightening up the story for the first arc I realized that her arrival in Japan made her a great touchstone character, someone who could learn about the supernatural as the reader did, bringing people on board even if they knew nothing about Japanese history or mythology. As soon as that clicked, she became our main character for the first arc.
Like all the characters, she’s complex and she’s flawed as she struggles to find her place and get a handhold on all the crazy things happening around her. The frustrations of adolescence enhanced even further by the difficulties of fighting monsters and struggling with her strange abilities.
SC: Rori as an Irish half was Jim’s suggestion and I think it was a stroke of genius. Normally for a character like this the tendency is to go American but by going Irish we have a our lead, who is our entry point into a new and mysterious place, being also from somewhere that is new and mysterious. Some double mystery for the lead!
Putting the group together how did that process come about; with the new arc will we see the group become closer together?
JZ: With the first arc we had to lay a lot of groundwork and introduce the cast, so that dictated a lot of the structure for the story. Now that we’re past that I feel like we can do a lot more with it and change up relationships between characters as they grow and change. I’m proud that we’ve avoided making a typical ‘team’ book. The group is not just on a singular mission. They all have their own goals and problems pulling them together or pushing them away from each other. That will definitely continue in the third story arc.
SC: I’ll Let Jim Answer this.
Arc Two the Ties that Bind ends with Rori basically saying the Wayward children weren’t running anymore, that the group is the new gods of Japan and were going to wipe out the old creatures. Without spoiling anything, Will there be new threats rising to take on Rori and the group? Will the group be in more danger now that the old creatures of Japan gunning for them?
JZ: I think the obvious answer is ‘yes’. The stakes are higher now and the battles they’ve been fighting in the shadows are being dragged out into the light. Lots of repercussions to come.
SC: As many new threats as there might be the old ones are still there as well. Especially old Nurarihyon with his Showa suit and country hat. The kappa and Kitsune are out there as well and we have only scratched the surface of what kind of wonderful monsters exist in Japanese folklore. Stay tuned to see what pops up next.
How did the Mythology come about, what led to the influence of Japanese Culture in the mythology, what was the process in getting the Japanese culture and Tokyo so accurate, how did that influence the art and illustration? How much research in Japanese mythology and culture was done to bring this world to life?
JZ: Once we decided the story would be set in Japan I knew we’d be digging in with Yokai – traditional monsters and spirits from Japanese lore. I did quite a bit of research and also tailored certain creature choices to the kinds of things Steve wanted to draw. The nice thing is that there is tons of cool material to build from. The more research I did, the more I realized that, like many mythological stories from around the world, there isn’t just one standard way of approaching it. We could be ‘accurate’ but also evolve and change these things without losing the core of what makes them interesting.
Soon after the series was announced a friend and fellow comic writer named Brandon Seifert introduced me to Zack Davisson. Brandon knew that Zack, who professionally translates manga and has multiple Japanese myth/monster books under his belt, would be a great person for us to work with. Zack’s essay material in the back of each issue broadens the story and gives readers a greater appreciation for the historical source of what we’re working with
SC: I do my best to inform Jim about things on the ground here in Japan (where I live). That is both by mentioning things that we should change in the script and also beforehand when we have our periodic talks about the book. An example would be the idea of the Goshikifudou or the undergrounds spaces in Tokyo. And Japanese mythology is always fun to read about so that end of the process kind of takes care of itself.
TB: Steve lives in Tokyo, so he is familiar with it already. He often takes photos of places that are going to appear as reference for himself and for me in order to achieve an authentic representation.
The art work is so vivid I feel like the illustration and colors make the story and Japan come to life? How is that collaborative process done between all of you? The detail of the illustrations and colors is amazing how long does this process take for the book?
JZ: Steve and Tamra are absolute pros. I try not to get to get in their way as they both know what they’re doing.
SC: We intentionally aimed at setting Wayward in the more lived-in parts of the city instead of the gleaming station front areas that most people would be familiar with via travel or what they see on tv and movies. In order to draw those areas correctly I go and take a lot of reference photos. I mean a lot! Anything that is a specific location will be drawn with the use of lots and lots of reference and those pages take a long time to draw. Even the simpler ones take time but those beastly pages can be up to 12 hours sometimes. Jim and I talk about setting ahead of time to find the right location and that allows me to try and make sure I can get the right photos. In cases where coloring requires lots of notes I send some photos to Tamra who does her best to try and reflect the right look in the final colored image ( Tamra is an incredibly hard working colorist and nails it every time).
When the second arc started we had a three month time jump, Will we have a time jump with the start of this new arc?
JZ: Sort of. Issue 11 does jump ahead a bit to show ‘current’ events, but we roll things back to show the time in between and the major changes happening all over the city. The majority of the story picks up right where we left off.
SC: You will have to pick up the issue to find out!
How has this process of being a Creator owned project differ from other projects you have done?
JZ: Creator-owned is obviously a lot different than work-for-hire. The work I’ve done for other companies (Marvel, DC, Dynamite, IDW, Dark Horse, etc.) has been about bringing some of my storytelling sensibilities to an established property and making sure that I’m adding something to the mix without moving outside of the needed parameters of those IPs. I enjoy the challenge and it’s taught me a lot about solving story problems and delivering on spec. That said, the priority on those projects is about the property itself. The readership on Samurai Jack was formed by fans of the Cartoon Network series. The people picking up D&D: Legends of Baldur’s Gate played the video game or tabletop game. Me being on board can be a benefit but it’s not the priority.
Working on a creator-owned series at Image is a wonderful (and a bit nerve-wracking) experience because it’s all about us building something brand new from scratch. We get to indulge ourselves with story concepts and characters that please us, but we also don’t have the established structure to fall back on. Every Image project is a passion project that wouldn’t exist without that momentum built by the creators. I think that’s the biggest difference.
I really enjoy juggling both types of projects. They exercise different creative “muscles” and keep me growing as a writer.
SC: It is more work that doing WFH for a publisher/editor but honestly this is the most emotionally rewarding way to create comic books. We ( or more importantly Jiim) have to juggle multiple roles just to get this all done in time.
TB: Surprisingly, work I’ve done at Marvel or on other established properties feels very similar. Creator owned is freer, as sometimes licensed stuff can be a bit of back and forth nailing down some of the finer points, but the difference for me hasn’t been that extreme. It is nice to feel like you’re helping to establish something new, and being a part of that from the beginning, though.
Jim you recently posted Creator owned analysis of financial and sales of the Wayward launch, which was fascinating to me, did any of the data surprise you as you looked through it?
JZ: I’m thrilled with how well our trade paperbacks are doing. I always knew there was a strong ‘trade waiting’ part of the comic readership, but that feels even more pronounced to me now.
Our digital sales are not as large a percentage of our overall sales as I thought they’d be. Our readers really love having the physical books in their hands, which is great to know.
What set Image apart from other comic book publishers that you could’ve published with?
JZ: Image has the most straight forward deal of any creator-owned publisher. They don’t have a particular agenda and they’re not trying to sell IPs to movie or TV studios. They publish comics owned by the creators. That’s it. I love the simplicity of that. If any other media stuff happens, that’s great, but Image doesn’t interject themselves into that process.
SC: Their deal of only publishing books and not trying to use creator owned titles as an IP mill makes them stand out to me. It feels like a Japanese publisher whose main concern is just making great content.
What advice if any would you give comic book writers and artists about pursing Creator owner books?
JZ: Create the kinds of stories you yourself as a reader are excited to read. Build passion projects instead of trying to figure out what’s currently popular. The biggest comic titles of the past 15-20 years, books like Walking Dead, Saga, Bone, or Scott Pilgrim, have all been passion projects that weren’t quite like anything else in the market. They weren’t following a trend, they were carving a path.
SC: Whatever it is you want to do in this industry don’t wait around for chance to find you but just do it. If you want to draw comics then draw all the time. Practice makes perfect. The same goes for writing and coloring and whatnot. You can’t succeed without building yourself up.
TB: Work really hard and try to establish good connections. Speaking as a colorist, most of my work nowadays comes from word of mouth. Having good relationships with people turns into new work opportunities.
Issue #11, comes out Via Image on November 18th. What can the readers look forward to?
JZ: The scope of Wayward is expanding as we show the influence our characters are having all over the country (and beyond) as our wayward teens battle the Yokai. In the same way that issue 6 changed perspective and we saw Ohara’s life and point of view, issue 11 has a change of perspective as well. I hope readers are excited to see a new angle on the big story as we take it to the next level.
Is anything else that you all would like to tell the readers about?
JZ: Wayward Deluxe, collecting our first ten issues in a beautiful oversized hardcover, is now available from your local comic shop or favorite book outlet. It’s jam-packed with 70+ pages of back matter and comes with a poster. It’s a great way to get on board or as a gift for the comic fan in your life.
(Editors Note, I got this as a birthday present and Its Amazing, If you are a fan of the series or just want to check it out DO IT, IT is totally worth it)
TB: I’m also coloring Rat Queens at Image. I’m wrapping up John Flood for Boom and Transference for Black Mask soon. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur from Marvel comes out in November, and I have a few other projects I’m working on there, but not sure if those are announced yet.
Editors Note: I want to thank Jim Zub, Steve Cumming and Tamra Bonvillain for agreeing to the interview.
Thanks to Briah Skelly for help arranging this interview.
Thank you to 4th World comics @4thworld comics and Androids Amazing Comics @Androidscomics for awesome help and customer service..
Check out the Hardcover edition of Wayward here