[DISPATCH] An Interview with THE VALLARS' Jason Howard & More...
Debuting our new weekly feature with a special guest.
Today we’re introducing a new feature that we think is going to provide a ton of value for you. Welcome to the [DISPATCH], a weekly direct report from us to you, with news, recaps, exclusive content and more. And to kick things off, we have a very special treat- an interview with THE VALLARS artist Jason Howard!
And it couldn’t come at a better time: THE VALLARS will launch this Thursday, APRIL 13 in weekly, serialized format, and be free to read for EVERYONE.
That’s only possible thanks to our paid subscribers, who also receive exclusive comics, print rewards, and more. If you’re not already a paid subscriber, we’re currently offering a 30-DAY FREE TRIAL OFFER on all annual subscriptions!
We think you’re gonna love the Q & A with Jason below, but first, a quick rundown of the week that was…
[COMICS] The week began with us welcoming three new artists to our universe – André Lima Araújo, Juni Ba, and Ming Doyle. All of them will be contributing new stories to the upcoming [MAPS] Graphic Novel Sourcebook, which members of our Premium tier, THE CIRCLE, will receive in print in a beautiful, signed deluxe hardcover edition (shipping not included). Annual subscribers will get a softcover version of the book. So subscribe or upgrade now to get yours:
[SERIAL] The legendary Steve Epting crushed it on another new installment of ACADEMY. We also made the first four chapters FREE for everyone!
[EMPORIA] We announced our new web store, EMPORIA, will be open for business starting on April 26.
Big week, right? Now, on to the interview with Jason…
Warning: This interview contains very mild spoilers for THE VALLARS- so if you prefer to go into stories entirely cold, bookmark this now for later!
3W/3M: You’ve worked with both A-list writers and written and drawn your own story with BIG GIRLS. What was it that drew you to 3W/3M?
Jason Howard: Another A-list writer! I love writing my own stuff and will continue to do so, but there is a special magic that can happen when collaborating. So when Jonathan called and told me a little about what he and the 3W/3M team were doing I said “sign me up!” I love sci-fi and big world stories so it seemed like something I could really have fun with and contribute to. Add that to the opportunity to collaborate with someone whose work I love made it to good to pass up!
You previously illustrated DUELS I and DUELS II. Did that prepare you for your work on THE VALLARS, or did you find you needed a different way into each story?
The DUELS stories helped give me a sense of the 3W/3M world, and gave me a chance to see how my work looked colored by Frank [Martin]. When starting VALLARS, I kept my approach pretty similar with the exception that I’m pushing the page layouts more. I felt like a less formal panel arrangement fit the adventurous aspect of the story and gives me a chance to play.
What was it like working from the designs by Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston? Were there any difficulties taking their art and finding your approach either visually or integrating it into your storytelling approach?
The Mikes are great! The process is a little different for me. Typically in a script a new character will have a description and/or I’ll have had discussions about their look with the writer. But with VALLARS, the script is more open visually and the real definition of the character comes from the Mikes’ design. There is a transport ship in VALLARS that, based on the script, I was expecting to look a certain way, but once the design came in it was so visually fun and creative that it really opened up and inspired that part of the story for me. Often their design aesthetic is different from what I might naturally do, but in a fun, awesome way. Hopefully that inspiration can be seen throughout VALLARS and the creative mix of people in the process results in badass comics!
The premise of the book deals heavily with “discovery, wonder, and family.” How did that inform your approach to the material?
A lot of that is dictated in the scripts, so I just try to visualize things in a cool or interesting way. I naturally like drawing environments and big crazy stuff, so working on a project that has a sense of wonder and discovery is a great fit for me.
Tajo Vallar is a character readers have seen before, but at a very different (and much later) period in his life. Given that we know where he ends up on a future expedition, did that create any pressure to tell the story of his first journey across the Three Worlds and Three Moons?
Nah! Everyone else should feel pressure once they read THE VALLARS! I think the whole 3W/3M team has really put together an awesome book and while we may know aspects of where Tajo ends up as an adult, these adventures feel very now and are a great entry point to this world.
Outside of seeing the designs, this will be the first time anyone meets Tajo’s parents, Arlo and Dess, and his older sister, Ethina. What’s your favorite family dynamic in this story?
The Ethina and Tajo relationship for sure. I think the story captures the brother-sister dynamic in a really fun way, and probably most people can relate to having either a bossy older sibling or an annoying younger one.
You’ve frequently colored your own work, but here (as with DUELS I) you’re working with colorist Frank Martin. What’s that collaboration like, and have there been any adjustments from your work on DUELS, which is decidedly darker in tone, to this story?
Frank is amazing, so mostly I sit back and let him do his thing. But we did exchange some emails early on in the process to talk about this project and some of our approach. He mentioned that he liked getting reference, so I will occasionally send him things that I think have inspiring colors. One in particular is a scene early on where Tajo and Aro are walking through a rocky environment, I sent Frank some pics I took from a hiking trip in Southern Utah and he jumped off that rock reference in the coolest way and it’s one of my favorite sequences in the book.
But the main difference for me is when I know I’m going to color myself I will save parts of the art to do with color. For example, if you look at the TREES series, I would often draw clouds solely in color and interpret them as big, graphic brush shapes. I tend to color flatter with more of a design approach and less of a real approach. But Frank has such a masterful understanding of lighting and brings an amazing dimension to his work, so I just want to leave room for that in the inks and make sure everything is drawn clearly enough for him to kill it!
This isn’t the first time something you’ve worked on has been a digital-first release, having previously drawn the webcomic SCATTERLANDS in 2013. What do you think releasing content in non-traditional ways allows for that the traditional print approach doesn’t?
I think it’s the immediacy. SCATTERLANDS was very bootstrapped, and we did things in execution that made sense at the time for something we wanted people to read on their phones. 3W/3M is similar in that it is offering readers a look at a project and world development in immediate, almost real-time. So not only can you read the finished comic, you can also see were it came from and the steps it took to get there and be connected along that path. This is the stuff that feels exciting to me! It’s using the power of the internet and our connected world for good and not evil!
It’s hard to imagine anyone using the internet for evil… And I hope this isn’t a leading question, but are you an Institute man, or do you think science and magic can coexist?
Coexist for sure! I mean, the comic medium itself is a glorious mix of art and story, a crazy science and magic alchemy. So of course I have to believe that there is room for both in the world!
Thanks to Jason for taking the time to share his thoughts with us. If you dug this interview, we’ll be hearing and seeing more from him in the coming days, and the first chapter of THE VALLARS debuts this Thursday. We can’t wait!
Really looking forward to seeing Thursday’s comic, and this was a great way to make me even more excited!
Love the interview and the peeks at The Vallars. So excited this is finally coming out. Is there going to be a Process post with Jason Howard after a couple of issues(? installments? - not sure what to call the weekly page dump) have been released? I'd love to see how he takes the script and the Mikes' designs and transforms it into his own thing.