Space is awesome. Cats are awesome. Cats in space? Oh, that’s a double dose of awesome right there.
Carlos Giffoni (Space Riders) teams up with artist Juan Doe and letterer Matt Krotzer for Dark Horse’s upcoming Strayed. Which is about a cat. In space.
If you appreciate cats, space, and space cats as much as you should, then pick up this tail (PUN INTENDED) of an astral projecting feline friendo and his human companion who fight against the devastation of alien species on August 14.
To tide you over, we interviewed Carlos.
Comics Experience: A space cat off having adventures is such a fun concept for an ongoing! How did you come up with the idea behind Strayed?
Carlos Giffoni: Thank you!
I was going through a tough personal time, and my cats were a big part of helping me get through things. Around the time, I was also reading about a failed program funded by the US government that ran for over fifteen years to create psychic spies. The program was attempting using a technique called remote viewing to keep tabs on enemy nations, basically a form of astral travel. I just looked at one of my two cats one day, wondered what was going through his mind, and the initial idea for Strayed was born.
The rest of the story elements came from the usual hard work of brainstorming, writing lots of ideas down, recording voice memos while driving, basically living mentally in that world and slowly discovering it and building it.
The first arc is five issues and tells a complete story, and we’d love to do more and make it more of an ongoing if it does well and Dark Horse wants to continue it. Currently, we have ideas for roughly two arcs, about ten issues, and a few one-shots.
CE: You told SYFY Wire that you hoped to explore the macro theme of colonization with the comparatively more intimate one of the relationship between pet and owner. Without spoiling anything, how do you plan to balance the two?
CG: At the center of the story are Lou and Kiara, Lou is the astral traveling cat, and Kiara is his loving owner. Kiara is also a genius scientist who created a device that reads Lou’s brain waves and translates them into recognizable speech. They are both being exploited to find these new planets that are later colonized, initially without their knowledge.
The colonizing military force is taking advantage of them, and they don’t have anyone else they can trust but each other, both of them are going to have to make tough choices and sacrifices once they start figuring out what is going on. You’ll see their relationship come to the front organically as they interact in the story. We cut a whole issue that was focused on the two of them and their origin because it didn’t do anything to move the story forward, I think that could be a fun one-shot that would come later if readers are interested in seeing it.
CE: You’re also a musician and producer of video games. How have your experiences in other creative media helped shape your views on comic book writing?
CG: My music is very abstract and defined by mood and structure rather than melody and the rules of classical scales, so in a way controlling the feel of a piece with pacing and tone is something that I have been doing for over twenty years. I am also very familiar with where I need to get mentally to get the best possible result creatively from years of making music. Finally, I’ve built good intuitional muscles to tell me when something feels right, and I should call it done.
Production and Creative Direction of video games have helped me immensely in understanding how to collaborate with others, mainly working closely with artist and understanding when it’s better to get out of the way and let them create instead of being prescriptive. I also have spent years giving art feedback and have an MFA, so I have a pretty good visual vocabulary that helps me talk more meaningfully about art than if I had been only writing all this time. My day job involves giving feedback to artists and collaborating with them every day.
CE: What is your process like with the creative team?
CG: I usually speak with Juan Doe, the artist, on the phone to discuss the upcoming story and visual elements and to sort out any details that aren’t clear. On the more visually charged pages, I leave a lot up to him. I then draft the issue’s script and send it to Chas! Pangburn, the editor, who gives me notes and suggestions and fixes any typos/grammar I missed. The script goes back and forth for a bit there, usually a few drafts. Once we feel good about it, it goes out to Juan so he can begin drawing. Juan sends back thumbnails for feedback, he is terrific, so there are rarely more than a few minor notes before he moves to something close to final art. Juan then does a final color pass after addressing any last feedback. At this moment, I do a final dialog pass to adjust for any changes or opportunities brought forth by the art. Then, everything goes out to Matt Krotzer for lettering, and we text or email if he has any questions before doing the lettering, which usually receives a round of feedback before is all done. The final step is uploading everything to the Dark Horse file servers.
The only exception to this methodology is the alt covers, which come after the issues are done and are pretty much just me talking directly over email to the artists and sending to Matt for logo design and placement.
And that’s it. I believe that when making a comic book, communication between the collaborators is an essential element to get the best out of everyone. I try to have open channels and be transparent with anything that is going up with the book and always ask for and provide feedback.
I am lucky to be working with a fantastic team that has created something wild that goes beyond all my expectations, and I hope everyone feels the same way when they read Strayed.
Make sure to pick up Strayed on August 14!