Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 67
The Gilga-Mess
by Alex Shvartsman
Reading Dead Lips
by Dustin Steinacker
All the Things You Want
by Andrew Peery
by Brian Trent
The Cost of Wonder
by Leah Cypess
IGMS Audio
The Cost of Wonder
Read by Alethea Kontis
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
Sweetheart Come
by Alethea Kontis
Bonus Material
The Story Behind the Stories
by Dustin Steinacker

Interviews With The Fantastic
InterGalactic Interview With Barrett Stanley
    by Randall Hayes

I've been hoping to do this interview since I met Barret Stanley at the Greensboro Zinefest last year. Before you start reading, check out his Kickstarter video and his Tumblr page, where in addition to stills from his very well-reviewed indie space opera comic Heartbreak Quadrant, he has a series of portraits of iconic female characters from science fiction's herstory.

Hayes: So the crew of the Red Grapefruit are essentially bad-ass antique dealers. Are you a collector yourself, or have you enjoyed other such characters, like DC's Jack Knight (Starman) or Cory Doctorow's "Craphound?" How did your characters evolve into their current forms?

Stanley: I'm not especially interested in proper antiques, but I do find a fascination with what you might call "old junk" - ephemera from the past that might not have any monetary value but which gives a window into people's lives. Objects like that can tell stories, or inspire them. In the world of Heartbreak, the Earth was destroyed twenty years before the story begins, and so for people scattered through the galaxy, anything actually manufactured on Earth has a real mystique. As far as characters, I started developing Heartbreak with an idea in mind to explore the archetype of the "strong woman" character. I've always loved the idea of these characters, but I've often found them to feel somehow remote or unapproachable. I wanted Ida, Kumi, and Nim to feel like bad-asses, but also like people you want to go out for a pizza with. I have many strong women in my life, and they've given me a lot of inspiration in developing my characters.

Hayes: Every review I read of Heartbreak Quadrant mentions the color palette as a distinctive feature. Can you talk a little bit about that? What goes into those choices?

Stanley: Color goes a long way toward establishing mood in comics. I wanted Heartbreak to feel fun and exciting, so the palette I use is bright and energetic. Most pages have one or two key colors based on the setting or the characters, and I generally choose the other colors intuitively, being careful not to add too many, because that can be a mess. I use a weird hybrid analog-digital process where I create physical color panels using spray paint, scan them, and then apply the scanned colors digitally. It gives a speckled, irregular look to the color, and I like the feel of imperfection there. I think digital coloring can be too sterile and I like the randomness of spray paint.

Hayes: Unlike mainstream comics, which use a collaborative assembly-line production model and a regular printing schedule, it looks like you do everything on Heartbreak Quadrant yourself. Why? Do you just prefer working alone? How does that process unfold over time? Do you have to do it between stints of other paying gigs?

Stanley: I do it all myself, for better and for worse! In indie comics, you have no guarantee of funding or of an eventual payoff, so initially, it just made sense to do it myself - I wouldn't have to pay anyone else to help me. The deeper I go into making comics, though, the more attached I feel to every aspect of the process, so ultimately, I'll probably just keep on doing it all myself, at least for Heartbreak. I have the broad arc of the story in my head, and I begin each issue by laying out storyboards, keeping a vague script in mind and making notes as to dialogue, which gets refined toward the end of the process. I draw and ink the finished pages, then have them scanned, then add color and finally, lettering. It's a long process, which is why it takes me a year or more to finish an issue. I do other illustration and freelance work, but comics are what I love the most at this point.

Hayes: You funded HQ through Kickstarter, right? Was that a one-time thing, or a standard part of your business model now? Do you have marketing help of some sort?

Stanley: I've used Kickstarter for the first and second issues, and I'm planning to use it for the third as well. It's been helpful both in terms of raising funds to cover the costs of printing and for finding new fans of the series. Crowdfunding is a great tool for comics makers, but here again, I handle all the marketing myself, so it takes a fair amount of time and effort. So far, though, it's been time well-spent.

Hayes: When we met at the Greensboro ZineFest, I saw a bunch of ranger sketches at your table. I can only assume that you are infected with the RPG bug (as am I; no judgement there). What's your game play trajectory been like? How has that experience in shared world-building affected your creative process professionally?

Stanley: I love RPGs! My friend Joe McCullough introduced them to me back in high school and I've played off and on ever since. (Joe went on to become a successful RPG designer himself, and invited me to illustrate his latest game, Rangers of Shadow Deep). I think that creating and running RPGs is great experience for anyone who wants to write fiction. When you're trying to come up with a scenario for your players, you have to think carefully about how to make it interesting for them, and plan for all the possible avenues they could take during the course of the game. It's a wonderful workout for your creative powers.

Hayes: There are soooo many fantasy systems, but relatively few space-based ones. Traveler is a classic, and there's a FATE-based system called Diaspora that I've playtested. Have you ever found a space opera RPG that you like?  

Stanley: I agree, there is a dearth of space-based RPGs. I've never played one specifically made for that setting, but I developed a series of space scenarios using GURPS rules, which I've always liked a lot. 

Hayes: Have you ever thought about a game set in the HQ universe?

Stanley: I have given some thought to an HQ-based game, either an RPG or possibly a board game. It's a possibility I have been keeping on the back burner but someday, I'd love to explore it further!

Hayes: Thanks so much for your time, and good luck with Issue #3.

Randall Hayes also writes the PlotBot column for IGMS.












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