Monday, July 24, 2017

Kickstart the Week with Transience: An Unforgettable Anthology

By: Nicole D’Andria

This week we’re showcasing a digital anthology set in a world where people can’t form new memories. Transience has 56-pages filled with stories from writers and illustrations from artists located around the world. Learn more about this project from the creators and collaborators themselves. Plus exclusives pages from the anthology!

The world in Transience has undergone biological attacks that have made some people develop anterograde amnesia, meaning they are unable to form new memories. People suffering from this forget everything that happened to them the day before every time they go to sleep, and the effects are permanent.

Each story looks at different people from different parts of the world various years after the biological attacks and how they’re dealing with the aftermath. Every story has at least one creator who is from the country it's set in.

The creators on their Kickstarter page call it “50 First Dates with less terrible Adam Sandler jokes and more existential crises.” The project was started by Leo Johnson and Ricardo Mo, who found artists from three different continents in six different countries. The various stories, named after the countries they take place in, and their respective creative teams, include:
·         United Kingdom - Alberto Muriel (artist) and Ricardo Mo (writer)
·         Australia - Mark Lauthier (artist) and Ryan K Lindsay (writer)
·         Spain - Bruno Hidalgo (artist) and Ben Kahn (writer)
·         Rural USA - Natasha Alterici (writer/artist)
·         USA - Will Perkins (artist) and Eric Grissom (writer)
·         Italy - Alex Diotto (artist) and Kristen Grace (writer)
·         Ireland - Cian Tormey (artist) and Sam Read (writer)

The artists were paid a small page rate and the writers donated their time. So the money being raised by the Kickstarter (after the fees) will be going to the writers, artists, and editors of this book. They were aiming for a $500 goal by August 2, 2017 at 7:34 AM EDT and they have already exceeded their goal. There is one reward for $4 that is a digital copy of Transience, which you can get on their official Kickstarter page.

I spoke with co-creator and United Kingdom story writer Ricardo Mo as well as co-creator Leo Johnson about this anthology and what it has to say about life, loss and love.

Ricardo Mo (left) and Leo Johnson (right)

Me: What inspired the idea of Transience and why did you decide to turn it into an anthology?

Ricardo Mo: Leo gets tired of me saying it’s Memento gone global, so let’s make his day just this once by pretending the inspiration was the Adam Sandler movie 50 First Dates. What would happen, I thought to myself, if every single character in an Adam Sandler movie woke up every morning thinking it was their first day on set? But in truth they’ve been having to deal with him over and over for the last 3000 days. Horrifying, right?

The decision to make it an anthology was based on a desire to share the huge world-building workload. Also, we looked around and realized just how many talented friends we’d made in the world of comics. It seemed a shame not to bring them together for something.

Transience Rural USA

Me: What work are you each responsible for on the anthology?

Leo Johnson: I didn’t write or draw a story, just acted as a co-editor with Ricardo. Mostly, that involved lots and lots of emails. Reaching out to potential creators in the early planning stages of the anthology, then it was emailing back and forth with Ricardo and the contributors about story ideas, how they might fit into the overall world of the anthology, suggestions for changes, etc. Mainly I was just around to keep the project moving and to help keep things together and organized, for better or worse.

Ricardo: I wrote the first story, brought to life beautifully by my frequent collaborator Alberto Muriel, and that’s what we used to pitch the concept to the other potential contributors. Writing that story really was the easy part though. Playing editor was tough. Leo and I decided early on that we were open to changing the parameters of the anthology if someone came to us with a strong enough idea. But we also agreed that we couldn’t compromise internal logic just to avoid telling someone when their story wasn’t working. Ultimately, I believe our resolve has made the anthology stronger, but I don’t enjoy delivering criticism to someone who has essentially donated their time and talent.

Transience United Kingdom

Me: You mention on the Kickstarter page that each story takes place in a different country. Why did you want to show multiple countries and why did you feel it was important that at least one member of the creative team was from that country?

Leo: A concept like Transience seemed perfect to set all around the world. How I deal with things here in the US might be different than how Ricardo would in the UK or someone in Australia or wherever. Plus, it allows us to play in a lot of different settings. Having each creative team feature at least one member from the country their story was set in was a no-brainer. If we’re going to have a story set in Spain, who knows Spain better than a Spanish comic book artist? Having creators from their respective countries made for some good stories, like with the Spain story about the building of a castell, a human tower, over and over again.

Ricardo: I would add that this idea of a truly international roster of creators was also responsible for us having to leave out so many great US comic-makers we know. We were determined not to have the whole thing feel like American creators plus special guests.

Transience Italy

Me: You mention Transience examines life, loss and love. What can you tell us about what it says about each of them?

Leo: I think, ultimately, Transience ends up being pretty optimistic when it comes to what it says about all these things. Ricardo and I both fully thought we’d end up with an anthology full of depressing stories about memory loss and how people cope, but it ended up being overall pretty uplifting. There’s an element of hope in all these stories, whether it’s people trying to break their cycle somehow or people trying to move on from the loss of loved ones and try to continue living their lives or even try to figure out how to fix the memory problems altogether.

Me: How did you find the various contributors for this anthology?

Leo: Basically everyone involved was someone whose work Ricardo and I had followed and loved and we became friends with them online. Ryan K Lindsay was someone that we are both friendly with and love his work, so we were really lucky he agreed to contribute. We loved Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo’s Shaman, so it only made sense for us to want to see how they would do a story in this world. Then, there were a couple of folks that we hooked up with because they were friends of someone who we’d already asked to contribute. That’s how we ended up with Kristen Grace writing the fantastic Italy story, for instance. In short, social media is your friend when it comes to putting together an anthology.

Transience USA

Me: Are there any plans to create a sequel anthology, mini-series or ongoing series?

Leo: In an ideal world, we’d get to tell all the Transience stories we wanted. I know there’s a couple of concepts we both liked and would have been fun to explore, but no one ended up tackling them. It’s unlikely we’ll do another anthology or series with this theme or concept, but if the support and interest ends up being there, you never know. Next year we might be talking to you about Transience 2: Secret of the Ooze.

Ricardo: Under the right circumstances, I would like to attempt a mini that follows a memory-capable outsider into one of the affected areas, in search of a missing loved one. And, if possible, I’d love to team with another of the artists from the anthology. If any publishers out there might be interested in such a thing, consider this my Hire-Me-Beacon.

Me: Ricardo, since you wrote the United Kingdom story, what can you tell us about it?

Ricardo: Our story is set 10 years after the initial event, so society is feeling the effects of not having a quick fix to its problem. We’ve tried to show some of the ways in which individuals are convinced to spend the days they won’t remember working, or at least playing along nicely – a labor exchange, and inspirational posters and public service announcements that play on the sense of duty or community many citizens possess. However, there are now a bunch of young teens running around in the twenty-something bodies of strangers, and they see that “duty” as being more exploitative, a debt that isn’t theirs to pay. We look at how those two very different types of people co-exist in a country that’s falling apart around them.

Transience Ireland

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Ricardo: Spend some money, pay an artist, make those comics. If you’re lucky enough to ever have an editor look at a pitch, you’ll want to show that you can see a project through to completion.

Also, I kinda wish someone had told me not to be too proud to venture into crowdfunding.

Me: What tips can you give to people trying to create an anthology?

Ricardo: Don’t! Transience has been incredibly well received by reviewers so far, so we may have a genuine shot at an award or two. Last thing we need is one of your readers beating us.

Leo: Get ready to work. It’s harder than you probably expect, but also extremely rewarding. Be sure to make friends with other creators. That guy that you’re buddies with on Twitter may just end up being the guy who writes an amazing story for a project you end up making.

Me: I also spoke with Ryan K Lindsay, writer of the Australia story, and Ben Kahn, writer of the Spain story:
Ryan K Lindsay

Me: How did you become involved with this project?

Ryan K Lindsay: The two fine gentlemen reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in pitching a story idea for them. I go a fair way back with each of them, so I naturally wanted to cook something up for them that they would dig.

Me: What can you tell us about your story and how it differs from others in the anthology?

Lindsay: My story is about a guy who is prone to lapsing into suicidal depressions, which can feel like brick walls when they jump out of nowhere because you have no context for them escalating and building. He is just dumped into them upon waking. So his wife has a... system for helping him out.

I actually hope my story doesn't differ, because I want to match the A+ level of quality on show across the whole book. :]

Transience "Australia" Page 1
Transience "Australia" Page 2

Me: What is the inspiration behind the story?

Lindsay: The relationship between this husband and wife is what jumped out at me. I came up with the idea within 48 hours of being asked to pitch, which is a rarity for my brain. But this idea stood out instantly and that's because of the real and human angle underneath it all.

Me: Why did you decide to pick six years after the event in particular?

Lindsay: I wanted it to feel like it had been going on for so long that the wife would have worked out a way to devise a system for herself to be able to cope. It's not the kind of new status quo you'd come up with in just a few months.

Transience "Australia" Page 3
Transience "Australia" Page 4

Me: How did Mark Lauthier become part of the project with you and how would you describe his art style?

Lindsay: He was brought in by Leo and Ricardo, and I'm glad he was. I love Mark's art - I see him around at conventions a lot down here, but we'd not yet had the chance to collaborate, so this was a blast.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring writers?

Lindsay: Hold fast. You can write every day - comics, or ideas, or six word stories. Just keep writing, and do it for yourself.

Ben Kahn

Me: How did you become involved with this project?

Ben Kahn: I think Leo became aware of my work after we did an interview for a graphic novel I did together with Bruno Hidalgo called Shaman. When I got the email about the anthology, I was instantly in. It was such a cool premise, and I loved the idea that every story would be in a different country. Bruno and I had some time between finishing Shaman and starting our new series Heavenly Blues, and we jumped at the chance to be a part of Transience.

Me: What can you tell us about your story and how it differs from others in the anthology?

Kahn: Our story is about a little girl named Adela and the castell. The castell is a human tower of people standing on each other’s shoulders. It’s really beautiful and truly a stunning feat of pure human ingenuity. There are videos of castells on YouTube that I definitely recommend checking out. The idea is that a festival took place on the day of the attack, and now everyone wakes up every morning thinking that it is still the day to build the castell. So every day, they build this incredible human tower all over again.

I think what really sets this story apart is that it’s the only one where the main character never learns that she has amnesia. I’m not sure I would call this story hopeful, but it is one that focuses on wonder and joy. Adela has found bliss in ignorance. She doesn’t even know she should be sad or afraid, so instead she just looks forward to being on top of the castell each and every day. That’s what this story was all about, how there can still be true happiness and wonder even in a world without hope.

Transience "Spain" Page 1
Transience "Spain" Page 2

Me: What is the inspiration behind the story?

Kahn: The idea for the story is all Bruno! I’m just a good ol’ Jewish boy from New York. It was Bruno who kept the world, the characters, and the story grounded in the culture of Barcelona. I asked him what he wanted to draw that reflected his home, and within seconds he answered that he wanted to do a story about castells. Bruno’s helped build castells before, so I wrote in the script that Adela’s father should have Bruno’s likeness.  

Me: Why did you decide to pick less than a year after the event in particular?

Kahn: A big reason was practicality. Only small children get to climb to the top of the castell, so I needed Adela to still be a little girl if I wanted the story to end with her at the very top. I also wanted it to be set not too far after the attack to try to lean into the “ignorance is bliss” theme. It’s less than a year, the world isn’t falling apart yet. I think the story is set during a time where it’s easier to pretend things are still normal, and hope that things will become normal again soon.

Me: How did Bruno Hidalgo become part of the project with you and how would you describe his art style?

Kahn: Bruno was always part of this story. I mean, he’s the Spain of the Spain story! Bruno and I were always on this together, we were even approached as a team. He’s my brother-in-arms. We’ve been working together for over five years now, and there’s nobody I’d rather be working with. I’d describe his art as stylish and surreal. It’s not tied to realism, it’s more tied to capturing a story’s emotional essence. Bruno’s work doesn’t look real, but it feels real. 

Transience "Spain" Page 3
Transience "Spain" Page 4

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring writers?

Kahn: Oh wow, am I actually getting the aspiring writer question? I thought I still was an aspiring writer. This is so exciting! Okay my advice: be a crazy person. Seriously, be obsessed. Making comics will drain you: drain your resources, time, and energy. But if you’re truly obsessed, it’ll all be worth it like nothing else. And then if you want a professional quality book, treat your creative team like professionals (that means pay them!).

Comics are a very different beast than writing a screenplay or prose. Breaking down a page, figuring out panel layout, writing for an artist, none of those come naturally. Those skills have to be trained and practiced. Write scripts, issue 1s, 8-page shorts, do whatever you gotta do to just figure out how the medium works. Then when you have an idea you care about enough to put into production, you’ll already know how to write a comic script.

Me: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your anthology! If you’re reading this and you’re interested in learning more and possibly backing it, check out their Kickstarter.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.

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