“Anything that expands the number of outlets for storytelling will open doors for more people to come on through” Jonathan Larsen and Cecilia Latella discuss digital publishing with Thrillbent and their sci-fi fairytale The Endling
What do you think each of you brings to The Endling creatively?
JL: Cecilia brings lots of things to the book–above and beyond her artwork. Her enthusiasm for the project – despite all the angst it’s caused her along the way – continues to astound and humble me. She is a fantastic editor, as well – pushing me on character motivations, catching continuity errors, etc. All that’s just a bonus, of course, on top of her gorgeous artwork.
CL: My input is in nuances – a frown here, a gesture there. I am actually given free rein on various details of the panels.
JL: I grew up living and breathing comics – and even as a dumb boy I recognized that way too many comic-book artists rely on hair and costumes to distinguish one female character from another. Cecilia creates real people you could tell apart even if they were in black and white, wearing the same outfit. They live and breathe and worry and hope. That said, I can’t wait for you to see how she handles the spooky/creepy stuff coming up… made so much more effective, in my mind, by first having created real people we care about to put in those situations.
How did you get involved with Thrillbent, did you pitch to them or did they come to you?
JL: I am quite new to creating comic books–having only written two Batman shorts for DC’s “Legends of the Dark Knight” – so Thrillbent wasn’t going to come to me! It happened that I knew artist JG Jones back when we both worked for the same newspaper in Brooklyn–me as a reporter and him as editorial cartoonist. We actually did a comic book together that he showed around at a convention long ago–and got hired by Jim Shooter because of it. Fast forward many years and I was talking to JG about maybe taking a shot at getting into comics again. I mentioned an idea for a series I had written a pitch and a script for and JG graciously shared it with a buddy of his named Mark Waid.
Mark got in touch and told me he liked it (he cursed at me vigorously; the greatest praise he offers, I’ve found). We talked about maybe doing it at Thrillbent, but I had such a clear vision of it in print–plus, it’s a long series so it just didn’t feel right. Fortunately, Mark also really liked my idea for The Endling – gave me a few notes on how to improve those first few scripts and we were off. Mark, incidentally, is the only person aside from Cecilia who’s read the last script and some day I’m going to share the email Mark wrote me after reading it. Incredibly gracious cursing.
Do you have to pace the story differently for the website and tablet versions of The Endling, compared to a traditional printed page?
JL: When I first conceived of The Endling, I thought of it as a traditional comic. But when it actually came time to write the scripts, I had already spoken with Mark and he had explained Thrillbent‘s format and sent me some scripts, so I was definitely writing it for that format. The pacing is definitely different – the one thing that leapt out at me was I was determined to have a good, solid cliffhanger at the end of each episode – which is the equivalent of a cliffhanger every five pages in a traditional comic book. That was hard, but the challenge was fun and it imposed a level of discipline that I really enjoyed.
We did go through a bit of evolution with Mark and Thrillbent in which I had to reformat the scripts multiple times as the creative team and the Thrillbent folks all gelled around one style of script – if only so that the folks working on multiple series (like Lori Matsumoto and Troy Peteri) wouldn’t have to deal with a different format for every series they did. This was a pain in the butt for sure, but one of those where the merits of going through it were obvious and inescapable. Not to speak for Mark, but one reason he’s doing this is to learn how to do this. So I feel strongly about obliging that motive however I can in the process.
CL: From my point of view, yes – visualizing a page in a landscape format is different from imagining it in a portrait one, especially when you have to fit three panels in it, as it’s usual for The Endling. You can play only that much with verticality and top-to-bottom tricks. Instead, you have to learn to think in a more tracking shot way.
How important do you think the rise of digital comics is for creators like yourself? Would The Endling have seen the light of day in print for example?
CL: I suppose it’s definitely possible, yes – digital or print are just means, the story could be translated into different medias. Just think about Hill and Rodriguez’s Locke and Key – a printed comic featuring several series of still panels with small changes in them, in a Thrillbent-like fashion.
JL: I think the rise of digital comics has definitely helped me. It gave me a chance at DC I might not have got otherwise. I don’t know whether Mark would’ve published The Endling if he were still in print instead of at Thrillbent, but I suspect that anything that expands the number of platforms and outlets for storytelling will by definition open the doors for more people to come on through.
How long do you see The Endling running for and can you give us any kind of hints about the future direction of the story – will we be seeing more in the simulator or more in the real world?
CL: The Endling is completely written, and at the moment I am pencilling chapter 25. There will be an end at some point next year, after which… who knows?
JL: The Endling is a finite series, but it ends in a way that’s not only open to but specifically crafted to set the stage for future stories. It’s an origin story that brings The Endling into this world and sets up various relationships with other characters, most notably Amber. Before it’s done, however, it also sets up questions and plot elements that provide ample basis for more stories in the future.
As I mentioned earlier, the last script was written a while ago–so it’s been planned quite tightly since before we started publishing. The lion’s share of the story moving forward is set in the real world.
And which ‘world’ do you enjoy writing/drawing the most?)
CL: The Endling’s world is a lot easier to draw (no buildings! No cars!) but my favourite characters live all in the present world, so… it’s a tie, really.
JL: My first instinct was to say that I enjoy writing the real world the most, but then a couple sequences came to mind that I really really love which make me want to tweak that answer: Some of the sequences I had the most fun writing were those that play off the intersection of the two worlds.
As for the broader question about The Endling’s future direction–I think we’ll up the intensity to satisfy ‘bloodthirsty action junkies’ such as yourself [Jonathan’s response to our review which you can read in full here!]…but the entire storyline’s going to get a lot more intense in general. The more of it people have read, the better the feedback tends to be. I hope you’ll let us know if you agree!
Issue #1 and #2 of The Endling are available from ComiXology for the bargain price of £0.69/$0.99 and for even more episodes of the Endling visit www.thrillbent.com. For information on Jonathan visit his website pettylarseny.com and for on Cecelia visit cecilialart.blogspot.co.uk